2. Flag Burner, Torch Bearer
3. I, Hedonist
5. The Lay of Grimnir
7. Emma's Song
Ever since I first learned of the black metal movement in the 90s, I've been very lukewarm on the prospects of United States based bands attempting their hand at the sound. Bands such as Krieg and Absu helped define the word "meh" as it pertains to black metal while Judas Iscariot often unintentionally comical while being so up and down with his actual musical output's quality. However, in more recent years, US musicians have initiated a rebirth in the style and with considerably more skill than their predecessors. One act that has recently caught my ear is Panopticon, a one man outfit from Kentucky. This project is naturally inspired by the likes of Darkthrone but shows solid black metal sensibilities and a broader spectrum of influences than just raw, Nordic black metal.
Panopticon's full length, self-titled debut is a rather good entry into the black metal realm, offering up a very lengthy atmospheric-tinged record that, although not perfect by any means, shows a real grasp for introspective, raw music. In interviews I've read with Panopticon's founder, it is very evident this individual is quite intelligent and focuses the lyrics away from the typical rah-rah Satan theatrics and quite far away from the idiotic NSBM scene. Rather, Panopticon is based in anarchist (the political form, not the go-to-school-naked variety) beliefs. Granted, it isn't as though I can make out the lyrics as we are treated to appropriately harsh black metal screams, but the interviews demonstrate a thoughtful approach behind the music.
The songs on Panopticon are rather lengthy and if I have any significant criticism of this record it would be in that occasionally segments are a maelstrom of kinetic activity but not entirely fit into the song structure. The production is relatively good (we are talking about the black metal template, after all), tending to sound more interesting in headphones than on a speaker system. There's plenty of subtle melodicism throughout, particularly in "Emma's Song".
Even though there are minor deficiences on this very good debut, it is quite enjoyable throughout and should keep your attention throughout. More importantly, it serves as a springboard for creating interest in hearing how this band progresses on future releases.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 11/2011