Panopticon
Roads to the North

Panopticon and Bindrune Recordings is a match made in heaven. A label that has released some truly special atmospheric, organic and naturalistic metal (Falls of Rauros, Nechochwen, Blood of the Black Owl, Obsequiae) finally releasing a more accessible and wider CD release of Austin Lunn’s 5th album under the Panopticon banner, a project that personifies organic, atmospheric and naturalistic.

My first experience with Panopticon was 2012s LP only release, Kentucky,  a brave, brilliant black metal album that fused Bluegrass, Americana and folk into black metal by way of banjos, fiddles and such to tell the plight of coal miners fighting against corporate greed. Roads to the North sees Lunn shift his lyrical and thematic focus, well… north with detailing Lunn’s physical migration from Kentucky to Minnesota, and thus the album has a duality of inherent moods that sees Lunn mix more wintery, frostier,  but gorgeously shimmery climes of a more Scandinavian lineage with heartfelt looks to his blue grass heritage.

The resultant lyrical and musical exposition is nothing short of spectacular, as the 8 track 75 minute journey is a truly enthralling experience. Those that enjoyed Kentucky, though, fare warning, this is not Kentucky pt II. It has far more emphasis of melodic, majestic sweeping black metal, signifying Lunn’s new surroundings  with only minor injections as he looks to the past with only two shorter introspective bluegrass/folk moment (“The Long Road pt 1; One Last Fire”, “Norwegian Nights”). Roads to the North has far more variety with a fuller sound and layered textures touching bases of European black metal and melodic black and death metal.

Bands that spring to mind are  early, more Viking, but getting progressive tinged Enslaved, Spectral Lore with rousing, layered and downright epic riffs, Woods of Desolation’s post-y melancholy and similar US one man act Mare Cognitum. But even with some tangible influences and references (more for review purposes and to introduce those that have not heard Panopticon more than anything else), Panopticon remains a truly uniquely brilliant entity. What sets Panopticon apart is the heart felt character and tangible emotion that drips from every note, whether its’ the savage, more death metal throes of opener “Echoes of A Disharmonic Evensong”  or the flute and fiddle start bookends “Where Mountains Pierce the Sky” (where  Woods of Desolation really comes through), you can feel Lunn’s craft, conviction and deepest personal moods  through the release. It’s evident particularly on (“The Long Road pt 1; One Last Fire”) where Lunn seems to be both sadly recalling his Bluegrass roots, but saying goodbye in cheerful, playful remembrance.

But it’s Lunn’s metal chops that steal the show with majestic, soaring melodies and riffs that will both rouse and sadden with equal emotive gravitas. Both “The Long Road pt 2: Capricious Miles” and “Pt 3: The Sigh of Summer” , delve into his personal journey that you can almost trace through the music’s bristling elegance. The latter being the album’s arguable standout with a delicate post rock build and triumphant Deafheaven -ish (I know that’s a dirty word in some parts, but I mean it as the highest complement)  peak and shimmery riff around 3 and a half minutes in.

As evidence by the opening track and start of penultimate track “In Silence” Lunn can also bare his teeth when he chooses, but his forte is more restrained, personal moments such as the moody darkwave shift “In Silence” takes midway and it’s acoustic closeout. The albums closer “Chase the Grain” is also another arguably candidate for best track merely for the simply breathtaking, layered strings that open it (seriously some of the most striking music of the year, I only wish it were longer), the gorgeous violin section and the stirring orchestral segment near the end of the track,  whereby Lunn slams an exclamation point on the album, simply artfully and simply stating “Hey- black metal album of the year here folks, imirite?”.

And while  Ordinance’s Relinquished is also in the running, I’m inclined to possibly agree.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
September 29th, 2014

Comments

  1. Commented by: thatguy

    You can definitely get Kentucky on CD.


  2. Commented by: Blake Solomon

    thatguy is correct.
    Kentucky was released on CD to 1000 copies in March 2013.
    Pagan Flames Productions ‎– PFCD016.


  3. Commented by: E. Thomas

    Good to know- off shopping i go


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