Panopticon, like Thou, is one of those few artists that continuously finds a way to outdo himself, and consistently leaves my jaw on the floor after hearing new music. The forthcoming new record, Roads to the North, is no exception, and lone Panopticon member Austin Lunn has once again found new ways to amaze me. I may be biased, as I am a huge and long-time Panopticon fan, and a friend of Mr. Lunn's, but I do my best to approach these reviews with as much objectivity as possible. Do what you want with that information.
Roads to the North is a phenomenal record from start to finish, and it decidedly more aggressive than the previous LP, Kentucky. The bluegrass overtones that played such a big part of that record are for the most gone, replaced by a more traditional folk feel where appropriate. But for all intents and purposes, this is a full-on metal record. The opening track, "The Echoes of a Disharmonic Evensong" is a blistering assault on the senses. It is raw, raucous, chaotic, and at times borders on completely out-of-control. It is also one of the best Panopticon songs to date. On the second track, "Where Mountains Pierce the Sky," we hear that aforementioned folk influence (though I suppose "traditional" is not the appropriate term to use in this case, since it sounds like it's straight out of Lord of the Rings) before the songs turns into a mid-paced metal romp, and then into another fast-paced shot of brutal black metal. As is typical of most Panopticon material, this song, and really, the whole album, seems to ask many questions, and at times sounds quite incredulous. But more than I've ever heard on a Panopticon record, this record has answers. Now, I can't say what those questions are, exactly, and even less can I say what the answers are, but I think that you'll understand what I'm talking about when you hear the record. There's more than just hope here - Austin sounds more sure of himself than ever before, and it's an unbelievably great sound for this record.
Of course, there are still parts that are very melodic and melancholy at times, but they always seemed to be followed up by absolutely blistering metal sections that could not sound more confident and bold. What I love about it most, though, is that the record never comes across as arrogant or inflammatory. On what I can only assume is an intensely personal record, Austin has found answers - HIS answers, and answers that can apply for most of us if we are able to look deeply enough into the music to discern them. Listening to Panopticon's music is always deeply personal for me, because his music has always spoken to something deep inside me, and hopefully, Roads to the North can affect you the same way that it affects me.
In the USA/North America, vinyl 2xLP preorders will be available within the next couple of weeks from Bindrune Recordings. European folks will be able to get the 2xLP from Nordvis. CDs will be available later on from both labels.
Austin is a good dude, making amazing music, and Bindrune is run by people who are also quite awesome. Both deserve your eternal support.