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Monday, December 5, 2011

Panopticon - Social Disservices (2011)

Band: Panopticon
Country: Louisville, Kentucky
Style: Atmospheric/Post-Black Metal
Label: Flenser

Within the American black metal movement of the last decade the whole Cascadian scene has gotten some major attention and hate, but one project to draw acclaim despite not really being a part of that scene, has been Austin Lunn's Panopticon. One of the band's to consistently bring new ideas into the realm of black metal whilst retaining a black core. This new album was promised to be the most raw and visceral release yet, and there has been no doubt to think otherwise.
If you've been a long time fan of Panopticon, some of the elements on here won't seem too foreign to you, but as a complete package it does demonstrate a more deliberate focus on the aggressive and visceral side of the band's sound. A lot of the elements on here shouldn't surprise you, once again, if you've been a fan. I will say that the black metal element is even more present than ever before, maybe even more than on the self-titled debut, but it is not exempt from breaking into other styles. As much as some people have shown a distaste for it, the post-rock element is still present in the material on this record; but rest assured if you aren't a fan of that stuff, it's not nearly as prominent as in some of the last couple releases. Those sections are limited more towards accenting certain sections or providing a break in a song, hear Subject, which is probably the most melodic song on here despite being over nine minutes long. Even compared to his earlier albums, this album comes off as very raw, but I'd say is mixed the best of any Panopticon release yet. I said it in my review of Panopticon's most recent split with Wheels Within Wheels, I felt that some of the early material from the band wasn't exactly my favorite mixed material as the drums were very often at the forefront of the sound, not that it's surprising since he is a drummer, but it did prevent some of the music from being as breathtaking as it actually was since the percussion occasionally drowned out the layers of guitars.
When you know what the concept, or themes really, behind this record are, it seems all the more appropriate that A. Lunn had decided to make this his most ferocious and vicious record to date. The idea of social services failing those it was meant to protect is indeed a very weighty, and to my knowledge, overlooked, topic, especially when it comes to music. Opening the album with children laughing and then having Client, the second track, open with children screaming does indeed send shivers down your spine. Children are very rarely mentioned in extreme metal and especially when it comes from a perspective likes this only makes the truth all the more gritty and tough to swallow. There's a tremendous amount of skill and heart in this record, and it comes through extremely clear. It's extremely cold and harsh sounding, those samples, and it only reinforces the fact that A. Lunn is one of the most creative and talented musicians to emerge from the American black metal underground within the last decade.
Definitely an expertly crafted album and one that will no doubt please many fans. I can only hope that you hear the same things I hear in this record and that it moves you in the same way if not in a way completely your own. If you haven't yet checked out Panopticon, you're sorely missing out, check this out as soon as you can.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

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