Writing for the Shaman has its advantages such as the discovery of artists and styles which had hitherto not been on my radar, case in point is the genre known as ‘witch house’. According to Wikipedia it takes its cues from chopped and screwed hip-hop, industrial, darkwave and dream pop as well as the occult and horror movies. A recent arrival to the genre, the new kid on the block as it were, is young Polish musician Vengeur (French for avenger) or Herman Pańkow as he’s known to friends and family.
Helming from the port city of Gdańsk, Pańkow is the sole performer on this his latest release Par Feu et Par Flammes (By Fire and By Flames), where he plays synths and piano. I’m not sure when the project first came to fruition but judging by the releases on his Bandcamp page, I would surmise it could be circa 2019, when the earliest material dates from, I am happy to be proven wrong of course. This would make Vengeur pretty darn prolific, what with this being his fourth full-length release, (not including standalone tracks and EPs). The cover, by Pańkow himself, promises a deeper sophisticated edge to the music in contrast to the more horror inspired output of his contemporaries.
The album flows as one long epic piece (not quite Dopesmoker but you get my drift) and needs to be listened to as such in order to be fully appreciated. As a result, I feel I would be doing the album a disservice by employing my usual track-by-track analytic approach, so instead I will be focusing on choice excerpts.
Exposition is a short introductory piece (actually it’s the shortest track on the album) and opens with some very nice Celtic Frost style gothic melodrama ala Tristesses De La Lune. Next is follow-up I As In III, that combines a black metal sensibility with the early pioneering dungeon synth work of a certain controversial Norwegian black metal artist whose name I won’t be evoking here. There is a flamboyance in how the music is played, which normally would prove a little off-putting to me, yet here there is enough menace and darkness with which to hold my attention.
here is a purposely moody, cold, and almost robotic feel to the music present…
Vexation In Vheissu is another number which caught my ear, cool EBM vibes in the vein of Twitch era Ministry as well as possibly some Frontline Assembly, the harder edge here offers up a welcome diversion in style and tempo. Lastly, Fallen Triumvirate curiously reminds one of Tubeaway Army/Gary Numan’s Down In The Park as well as Are Friends Electric, there is a purposely moody, cold, and almost robotic feel to the music present.
The promotional notes describe Vengeur‘s music as ‘the epitome of the night, of which it gives us both the romantic charm and the depths of melancholy’; to my ears however it sounds like the score of an early 1990s computer game with its dominant booming synth sounds. While initially offering a nostalgic charm to proceedings, it soon starts to tire somewhat as the album progresses. I feel there are some fantastically inspired moments of creativity present, but that these tend to be a little overshadowed by a repetitiveness that makes the album drag somewhat.
It may be that I need to listen to Par Feu Et Par Flammes a few more times to fully appreciate it and it’s even more plausible that my lack of familiarity with the genre has hampered my enjoyment of said album. This translates to a resounding no from me, for the time being anyway.
Scribed by: Reza Mills