PANOPTICON
Atmospheric Black Metal / Black Metal • United States

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Panopticon is a one-man atmospheric black metal band from Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America which holds anarchist beliefs. The band was formed by Austin Lunn (A.) in 2007, and in early 2008 he left his other band Anagnorisis to focus all his attention on Panopticon. The band's releases are the 2008 self-titled album, the 2009 album Collapse, and split albums with Wheels Within Wheels and Lake of Blood; several other releases are forthcoming, including a split with When Bitter Spring Sleeps and a three-way split with Skagos and Throndt. A. will also be recording drums for the new Falls of Rauros full-length. The band is influenced both by early BM like Darkthrone and Mayhem and by crust bands such as Amebix, and has also named bluegrass, folk music (especially Nordic folk), Tom Waits, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor as influences; A. has also claimed that upcoming material will read more...
Thanks to Vehemency, Bosh66, adg211288 for the updates

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PANOPTICON Discography

PANOPTICON albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Panopticon
Black Metal 2008
.. Album Cover 3.75 | 2 ratings
Collapse
Black Metal 2009
.. Album Cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Social Disservices
Atmospheric Black Metal 2011
.. Album Cover 3.63 | 12 ratings
Kentucky
Atmospheric Black Metal 2012
.. Album Cover 4.26 | 3 ratings
Roads to the North
Atmospheric Black Metal 2014
.. Album Cover 4.50 | 4 ratings
Autumn Eternal
Atmospheric Black Metal 2015

PANOPTICON EPs & splits

.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Panopticon / Lake of Blood
Atmospheric Black Metal 2009
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
It's Later Than You Think
Atmospheric Black Metal 2009
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Panopticon / Skagos
Atmospheric Black Metal 2010
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Panopticon / When Bitter Spring Sleeps
Atmospheric Black Metal 2010
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Wheels Within Wheels / Panopticon II
Atmospheric Black Metal 2011
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Vestiges / Panopticon split
Atmospheric Black Metal 2013
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Brotherhood
Atmospheric Black Metal 2014
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Panopticon / Waldgeflüster
Atmospheric Black Metal 2016

PANOPTICON live albums

PANOPTICON demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

PANOPTICON re-issues & compilations

.. Album Cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
...On The Subject Of Mortality
Atmospheric Black Metal 2010
.. Album Cover 4.50 | 2 ratings
Revisions of the Past
Atmospheric Black Metal 2016

PANOPTICON singles (2)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
La passione de Sacco & Vanzetti
Atmospheric Black Metal 2008
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Sheep in Wolves' Clothing
Atmospheric Black Metal 2017

PANOPTICON movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

PANOPTICON Reviews

PANOPTICON Roads to the North

Album · 2014 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
Austin Lunn's Panopticon project's previous album Kentucky (2012) was something of a unique entry in the atmospheric black metal genre. A combination of lengthy original atmospheric black metal compositions mixed with shorter bursts of American bluegrass, including some covers of traditional songs, it's an album unlike any other I've come across. The follow-up to such an album was perhaps always going to lack the same kind of wow factor as it's predecessor, so it's a good thing that Roads to the North (2014) isn't a complete rehash of Kentucky, but takes some of the same ideas and adds some different ones in to create what is ultimately a very different sounding album.

The most bluegrass thing you will hear on Roads to the North is the instrumental track The Long Road Part 1: One Last Fire, though there are some subtle hints of the influence underneath some of the atmospheric black metal material this time, which is actually a marked difference from Kentucky where the two were presented separately. Lunn deviates from the atmospheric black metal template to also draw on melodic black metal on the album, giving it some more direct sounding passages and more unexpectedly some of these actually shift more towards death metal, resulting in more abrasive elements than an atmospheric black metal album will typically have. On the opposite side of that there are also some influences of post-rock to be found during the softer sections, such as the start of The Long Road Part 3: The Sigh of Summer, a track which transitions through most of the styles mentioned here.

With all these different elements going into it Roads to the North is easily the most diverse of the Panopticon albums I've heard so far. However it's also the one I've had the most difficultly with. Where Kentucky has that really overt wow factor due to being so different to anything else out there and the following album Autumn Eternal (2015) treads less diverse ground (though is still brilliant) making it easier to digest, Roads to the North is much more of a grower. It represents more of a challenge, one that will reward those who have the patience to partake in multiple listens while waiting for the album to really reveal itself to them. But once it does it becomes a very easy album to enjoy for repeated spins. Kentucky will always be special, but those who found it to focus a little too much on non-metal bluegrass work will surely find Roads to the North to be a whole lot more rewarding. Likewise those interested in what a true black metal/bluegrass fusion would sound like will find considerably stronger evidence of such a thing being possible here.

PANOPTICON Kentucky

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Nightfly
Released in 2012, Kentucky is the fourth album from one man (Austin Lunn) band Panopticon. It’s a curious blend of bluegrass and black metal. Having had a quick listen to the two follow up albums, this seems to be pretty much a template for his later work, though perhaps a bit less bluegrass. Having not heard anything pre-Kentucky I couldn’t say if they are in the same vein or not.



There’s been lots of great music made over the years when two different genres collide but bluegrass and black metal make unlikely bedfellows. Bernhein Forrest In The Spring opens – all banjos, acoustic guitar and fiddle. It’s an instrumental and Lunn does a good job of replicating an authentic bluegrass/folk sound, no doubt steeped in this type of music coming from Kentucky. If I had no background information on what to expect the following song, Bodies Under The Falls would have been a total shock as it’s pretty much pure black metal and totally at odds with Forrest In The Spring until a bluegrass section arrives about halfway. The album largely alternates between a pure folk/bluegrass piece and a black metal track with elements of the aforementioned. There’s no denying Lunn is a talented individual with a good grasp on both genres. My only problem is that they are so far apart they don’t work for me as a whole. Whilst I wouldn’t particularly choose to listen to bluegrass, if I did I wouldn’t want it infused with black metal and vice versa. I found myself leaning towards the black metal infused tracks – much is typical of the genre with tremolo picked guitars, blast beats and snarling vocal work. All well done, though not ground-breaking, with some subtle melodies revealing themselves after a few plays but would prefer it minus any folk elements creeping in.



I certainly couldn’t imagine any bluegrass/folk fans who weren’t metal lovers as well enjoying this album despite the appeal that the acoustic based songs could have. However, if you’re a black metal devote and can appreciate the blend of two such unlikely genres then you could find much to enjoy here. For me, it doesn’t work so don’t envisage myself returning to Panopticon too often.

PANOPTICON Kentucky

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
MMA Reviewer's Challenge: May 2016

I once read an interview, I forget who it was with unfortunately (but it may have been Japan's Sigh), where one of the musician's pointed out that you can do anything with the black metal genre. While anything could be a bit of a stretch (I'm sure I'm not alone in not wanting to hear rap black metal for example) I understand such a sentiment perfectly. As far as pushing boundaries and bringing new ideas to the table goes, black metal is perhaps the most exciting genre of metal music out there these days. This is thanks to artists like Panopticon, a one man black metal act from the United States. Kentucky (2012) is the fourth full-length album released by the project, the mastermind of which is one Austin Lunn.

So just what is it about Kentucky that makes it different? Well it's the clash between two vastly different genres of music. When playing black metal Panopticon takes an atmospheric direction with some folk elements on this album, but there are songs here where the genre shifts entirely to bluegrass. Lunn opens and closes the album in this way, and also covers traditional songs in between his black metal pieces, though takes a more ambient feel on Jean Ritchie's Black Waters (1971). It's an eight track album, but only three of the tracks are actually black metal tracks, although due to their extended length, each being over the ten minute mark, those three still make up the bulk of the 51:29 long album. This sort of thing is, according my research, a unique kind of approach; I was only able to turn up one other band who crosses bluegrass and metal (metalcore in that case), that being Blood & Banjos, whose first material was released after Panopticon's Kentucky. So Kentucky seems to be the first album of its kind, though I have previously heard the two worlds clash by way of bluegrass versions of metal songs.

It's quite the contrast in sound even with some folk elements heard during the black metal tracks, but one that works surprisingly well. Lunn makes some great black metal here, with my personal favourite being Bodies Under the Falls, but also shows himself more than competent at the bluegrass stuff, and in good form for clean singing too. The two main bluegrass cover songs here, Come All Ye Coal Miners (written by Sarah Ogan Gunning in - according to some sources - 1937) and Which Side Are You On? (written by Florence Reece in 1931) seem to have been carefully chosen to fit with the theme of the album, being protest songs, as this seems to be quite a political album from Lunn. I personally only really care for the musical quality though, and that's on the top level to my ears whether Lunn is playing metal or bluegrass, original or cover. He tends to keep the two sounds separated, but that's actually part of what I like about the album.

All the Panopticon albums I've heard so far sound a little different within the black metal context but Kentucky is, thus far, my favourite by a massive margin, as well as being the most unique. A must own for both black metal fans and connoisseurs of the unusual.

PANOPTICON Kentucky

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
aglasshouse
MMA Reviewer's Challenge: May 2016

There are very few albums that manage to forge metal and other strange genres, and even fewer that do it well. In this case the said strange genre is bluegrass. Unfortunately these two aren't the most compatible- granted, it could be possible to be able to pull off such a blend, but Panopticon trips up. At least in a certain sense.

To call Kentucky a "bluegrass-metal" album would be misleading. The band does not play bluegrass material at the same time as the full on black metal. This could mostly be due to it being, well, black metal and bluegrass being, well bluegrass. Bluegrass isn't a genre that is able to blast you with any major volume, instead tending to stay pretty tranquil. Black metal does the opposite, and in Panopticon's case, relies heavily on that extreme magnitude to hit you as hard as possible to leave an affect. Because of this volume difference the two styles are practically unable to play at the same time. So instead, Panopticon filled the album with black metal songs and bluegrass songs, which in my opinion makes it a whole lot less interesting that I previously expected it to be. The only real time the album actually turns full black metal is on the long and somewhat uninteresting epics. Therefore the album comes across as a bluegrass band playing some metal.

In this case, I'll look at it from a bluegrass perspective, and it's mediocre. It's nothing to scoff at per-say; Panopticon utilizes those classic toe-tapping beats to drive things that are very typical of archetypal bluegrass (EDIT: The songs themselves are apparently covers of songs from the 30's. This means that these archetypes are excusable to a certain extent, but that also means that Lunn didn't completely write original bluegrass material). Not much is brought new to the end table, and leaves not much impact on me. The metal is pretty alright though, speaking as a non-fan of black metal I still find it impressive that the one-man group can still pull of some okay metal spectacles in the album.

Kentucky was a disappointing album with lackluster levels of effort. If you are interested in a gimmick like this, be prepared that the experience may not be what you think it will be. Yet I do still say that you should check it out when you get a chance.

PANOPTICON Kentucky

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
666sharon666
MMA Reviewer's Challenge: May 2016

Panopticon's Kentucky is one of those albums that doesn't belong to just one genre. This isn't an uncommon occurrence in metal with all the acts out there that cross, to name just a few examples, heavy metal and power metal, black metal and death metal, or symphonic metal and gothic metal. You also get a lot of progressive metal bands that are just as much progressive rock bands. Less common would be albums like Kentucky which has Panopticon crossing atmospheric black metal with bluegrass.

I wouldn't call this bluegrass black metal (which I guess would make it blackgrass?) as such, as mostly the two genres are presented as separate entities. Bluegrass does crop up in the metal songs but it's mostly heard as shorter songs between the metal tracks. The experience of the album is almost like switching between two different albums track after track, so this cannot be called bluegrass metal in any way. Now I'm going to have to admit to not really knowing much about bluegrass music (I find those tracks quite pleasant though) so I'm going to review Kentucky as a metal album. There are actually more tracks here that aren't metal but because the metal ones are much longer compositions this album still ends up being more metal than not.

Black metal being one of those love it or hate it genres I don't think that Panopticon does anything in the three black metal songs that is going to convince a naysayer and the music here is certainly not some of the more accessible black metal out there, but for those of us who enjoy the genre I find these to be three great black metal tracks, especially Bodies Under the Falls. I know a bit of Panopticon's other material, and I'd say that this is one of the project's best songs. Black Soot and Red Blood and Killing the Giants as They Sleep both feature extended voice-overs which I know some (and often myself) find off-putting but I actually quite liked them in the former at least, though I'm more neutral to those in the latter.

Kentucky overall may veer into the bluegrass stuff a bit too much for some listeners but I personally found it a nice and unusual touch. I can't really comment on the quality of the bluegrass though I do know that three of these songs are actually covers of traditional songs, presumably done faithfully, but as a black metal album I find it excellent. 4.5 stars.

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