Thursday, December 3, 2015

Panopticon – Autumn Eternal

Ask most people what they know about black metal, and you'll probably get a blank stare in response, along with some BS about how it is evil, nasty music that no one should listen to. Its true, the genre started out as very violent protest music. The protest was against Christianity and in favor of returning the Scandinavian countries to the old, pagan ways. Over time, however, as the genre has grown and matured, there have been some very different flavors of black metal popping up. There are many bands within the genre who look to nature for inspiration, and who attempt to render their love of nature in the form of black metal.

Panopticon are one of those bands, and this latest album, “Autumn Eternal”, is a master work in the genre. Austin Lunn, who pretty much is Panopticon, has written and performed this album single-handedly. You might think this is no big deal given the number of one man black metal bands that exist, until you listen to the album and hear the diversity of instruments used in these songs. It is not uncommon to hear folk metal bands from Europe using instruments that are traditional and “non-metal”, but to hear an American artist do the same using American folk instruments is not at all common, and one of the thing that sets this album apart from the crowd.

This the third and thus final album in a trilogy that began with “Kentucky” and continued on in “Roads To The North”. The trilogy traces his journey moving from Kentucky to the northern climes of Minnesota, and reflects his love of nature. At least, in listening to this music, I have to assume that he loves nature, because it shows through in his music. Lunn is able to write music that is truly evocative, so that when you see a song title such as “Oaks Ablaze”, that's kind of the picture that the music paints for you. If you can imagine black metal that is lush and beautiful and captivating, this is what it would be. Better yet, you don't have to imagine it, just put this CD on with some headphones and drift away. I guarantee you will have an idea of what the songs are about even if you don't know the song titles.

This is a brilliant combination of very traditional sounding black metal with folk instruments such as resonator guitars and lap steel guitars, and it flows so seamlessly between quieter acoustic moments to all out raging black metal that it is a wonder to behold. The music is forceful when it needs to be, and at times delicate and fanciful when those moods are called for. To think that this is the work of just one musician, to write and play and sing all of this is almost mind boggling.

If you are in need of something a little different and something that will open your mind to all the possibilities of metal, this is truly an album that you need to check out. Each album in the Panopticon discography seems to top the last one, and it is a pleasure to hear the progression of this musician. Make a point to check this one out as soon as you can and listen to what metal can be as it progresses and becomes a vibrant form of musical expression.


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