ISIS — Panopticon (review)

ISIS — Panopticon album cover Album · 2004 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
The Angry Scotsman
Isis created something special with Oceanic, the blend of intellectualism and metal.

Sounds odd to many, and probably blasphemous to metal veterans, but as one myself it is a truly rewarding experience. More for sitting down and deeper listening than thrashing around, but it was undeniably heavy, sludgy and fairly slow. Black Sabbath for the 21st Century, but while eschewing most metal norms.

The band did not make much of a change on Panopticon, but took an incremental approach, (just like they've been doing from their early EP's until now). This is the same basic album as Oceanic, but is heavier, (yes) utilizes ambient passages a bit more, and features some more clean vocals. Also there is a tad more polish here, that was just not quite present on Oceanic. Turner and Isis truly are intellectuals, not jumping wildly or experimenting on this album, but fine tuning. Keep what was good and tweak what could have been.

So yeah, this album has it all. The crushing walls of sonic noise, the atmospheric interludes (which can be amazingly beautiful), subtle and sophisticated song writing, emphasis on chord and overall song progression, and buried, rough vocals. There is a decent bit of clean singing though.

The album is named after the 18th Century idea of Jeremy Bentham. His idea was a prison, (the Panopticon) where a guard could see every prisoner, but not the other way around. Every prisoner can be observed, but each one will never know if they are. An efficient design and one that would hopefully lead to a constant sense of "Big Brother" and ideally, self regulation amongst the prisoners.

An idea that Turner has compared with the US Government.

Leaves me feeling more crushed than the music!

Panopticon is an excellent album. An absolute jewel of post-metal. Metal heads that a taste for the progressive or artsy side, or just enjoy chill music along with heavy metal, must give this a listen.

Four and a Half Stars
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