Vestiges/Panopticon
Split LP

This is a polarizing release for me. When I first heard it was happening, I was confounded. I didn’t think the bands fit together, and though I absolutely love Panopticon, the inclusion of Vestiges I was decidedly less enthusiastic about.

Vestiges play a mash-up of Fall of Efrafa-esque post metal and crust with inclusions of black metal aesthetic. Maybe because I was still fresh off the hurt of Fall of Efrafa breaking up, as they were and are one of my favorite bands ever, but Vestiges’ 2010 release The Descent of Man just felt like it had been done before to me. I gave it a few tries, but ultimately never returned to it. These tracks have me wondering if that might have been a mistake.

Ratcheting up the black metal for this feels a bit like bandwagon jumping to me. I’m trying to tread lightly here as I am certain that Vestiges are sincere about the music they make, but I don’t recall their sound being quite this deeply blackened. I can understand if maybe this was also an attempt to fit in with their split cohort. Chances are this is just how they wrote the song without thought to who or what it would appear with, but I can’t help but question why a more post metal sound came out of them in 2010 when it was just about the most popular thing in ‘underground’ music, and now in 2013 the resurgence of black metal sparks a corresponding shift in sound. I really am not accusing, more just considering. Amusingly enough, I find myself more approving of their sound this time around. I actually enjoy these songs.

I am unsure as to why this isn’t one long song, as opener “VII” is just 5 minutes of building miasma that leads into the massive “VIII.” Plucked strings coalesce with haunted reverb drones and cymbal tapping, assembling layer upon layer of hushed anticipation. “VII” is the perfect length and pace to accelerate the heartbeat and leave listeners salivating. With high pitched shrieks, perfect timing, immense tone, and raucous shredding, all hell breaks loose when “VIII” erupts. Blasts of post metal and blackened crust dexterously interweave into one another to fill the rest of the 13 minutes Vestiges charges forward with. Sections of slowed down crashing drums and harmonized single note haze are sparsely incorporated every few minutes so as not to overwhelm the listener with the onslaught. The final minute is galloping toms and building aggression, until just when you think it might break out again, it screeches to a halt, leaving us on the edge of our seats for “IX,” but it never comes.

Panopticon is another animal altogether. In the world of black metal, ‘atmosphere’ is everything, and Austin Lunn knows how to generate it like few others. This is not the cold abyss one would typically associate with the domain of black metal. No, this is something less frightening, and significantly warmer. Being from Kentucky, and sound wise loosely associated with the American / Canadian ‘Cascadian’ black metal movement of late, there is a connection to something deeper than hate. Generally speaking, Panopticon’s music is filled more with contemplation than defamation. This is categorically black metal, all of its trimmings are here; the screaming, the blasting, and the oppressive speed of the tremolo picked guitars, but there is something more profound on display than blasphemy.

“A Letter” fades in quickly, sounding like something off of an indie rock album. There is some subterranean screaming echoing around the picking of the clean guitars, and it isn’t until nearly 8 minutes in that you begin feeling the heft of the gloom. The melodies are still quite uplifting, but you can taste the sorrow. “Eulogy” follows this same vein almost exactly. Periods of tuneful meditation juxtaposed with explosions of melodic aggression. It is succinctly what Panopticon is known for. The final track on the split is his cover of “Collapse and Die” by Suicide Nation. A quick 4 minute burst of blackened hardcore, just Panopticon-ized enough to pay homage.

I need to make perfectly clear that I am not intending to question the talent nor intent behind Vestiges’ music. They are far more capable and important musicians than myself, and they have built a solid fan base and now have me waiting patiently for their next release. Panopticon surprises no one with more beautiful, signature, nature inspired metal. It certainly isn’t my favorite material I’ve ever heard, but it is worthy. While the verdict is still out on whether or not fans of either band absolutely need this in their respective collections, it is 40 minutes well spent.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Nick E
October 1st, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: stiffy

    I really love this split.


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