Panopticon - Kentucky 2xLP - New Track Streaming, and Review
That did nothing to alleviate the impact this record has made.
I thought that On the Subject of Mortality, Panopticon's record from 2010, would be the height of Austin Lunn's musical achievement, at least for me personally. That album had and continues to have a very personal effect on me. Every time I listen to it, it grabs something inside of me and doesn't let go for days. It speaks a lot to where I've been and to where I may be going. Now, every time I hear Kentucky, I'm drawn deeper and deeper into this web of magic that Panopticon continues to weave.
Decibel recently reviewed this record and said, “Setting Appalachian protest songs against surging black metal shouldn't work. On Kentucky, it does." Well, I can't disagree with the second part of that statement, but the assumption it is made under falls a little flat to me. I spent the past weekend in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, reflecting on that assumption and on this record in general. Knowing what I know about the past and present of the Adirondacks of New York, I felt I was in a perfect setting to really take this record in and experience it as genuinely as I could. This region of New York, in its past, present, and future, is not all that dissimilar to Kentucky.
Oppressed, working class peoples exploited for industrial gain, bringing about ecological and cultural degradation that can't be reversed.
Considering the broader roots of black metal, there is no reason why Appalachian protest songs and black metal shouldn't go hand in hand. And this record is absolute proof of that. Perhaps people are hesitant to believe this because there's not really a way to conceptualize fierce, unstoppable black metal laced with banjos, flutes, and other more traditional folk and bluegrass instruments. I get where Decibel's assumption could be coming from, I guess - if you just pass it through your head without thinking about it, it doesn't sound at first like it would be a killer combination. But given just a bit of thought to the scope of history, it makes perfect sense.
Maybe stuff like this has been tried before, but never this good, never with this much authority and intensity. Austin Lunn's incomparable authenticity and passion has to be the focal point of the record. There is no way to listen to Kentucky and not hear a man that not only means everything he says and every note he plays, but a man that steadfastly believes in his cause to the very end - a man that will hope against hope and fight for his comrades until his dying breath.
Musically speaking, the black metal tracks are more expansive and soulful than anything we've heard from Panopticon before, and that includes On the Subject... The aggressive, brutal fervor cut with sublime melancholy that we first heard on that record is absolutely mastered here. That sound is perfected on "Black Soot and Red Blood," the track that we are honored and privileged to debut for you below.
On the traditional acoustic songs, such as "Come All Ye Coal Miners" and "Which Side Are You On?", we hear Austin Lunn's clean vocals really come to prominence, and they're chilling and very, very real. Just as communicative as the blood curdling screams, no doubt.
I heard early mixes of this record, and they were fantastic, but I must admit that Colin Marston's mastering of this record is flawless. Everything sounds phenomenal. It really made all the difference in the world.
I recently heard someone say something to the effect of "Panopticon would be great if he'd drop all the political bullshit." To that person I can only say that this is probably not for you. Carry on, listen to something else. Politics play a huge role here, but it's not merely political to voice one's anger over a people having their dignity and livelihood stolen by morally bankrupt machines. If it's not intensely personal to look this in the face every day and witness it first-hand, then I don't know what it. Calling Panopticon's music merely "political" fails miserably. Because sure, this is socially and politically driven, but this is also as black and as dark as any black metal you will find. So many bands experimenting with different sounds within the context of black metal miss the point of black metal entirely, but Panopticon never has, always remaining true to the black metal sound no matter the different sounds that he has integrated.
So enjoy the track below. It is the fourth song of off the record, and the second track off the album to be available for you to stream in its entirety. ("Bodies Under the Falls" debuted on Decibel last week). The gatefold 2xLP will be up for preorder from both Pagan Flames and Handmade Birds today.