Thursday, 8 October 2009

Panopticon - Collapse. 92/100.



Panopticon can be described as a politically driven band. The sole member, Austin Lunn, or A, as he prefers to be known as, is an intelligent man, with many beliefs on the political running of the American system. His music isn’t based around childish concepts, but adults themes which are both interesting and intriguing, despite the fact that I’m not a very political minded person. His informative songs, particularly those like ‘The Death of Baldr and the Coming War’, are maturely conceived through the eyes of this man, who has an anarchic vision of the world that seemingly warns mankind of his stubborn nature that will drive us on to an imminent war that will cause the eventual downfall of all life as we know it. In iconic movies like Fight Club, which defined a nation of men, it was stated that the current war is a spiritual war - something I am inclined to agree with. It would seem, judging by the content of the lyrics and the general lyrical themes, that A, the mastermind behind this one man project, is adhering to the same beliefs. His mind is full of wisdom and he himself has a way with words, portraying the downfall in explicit and vivid visions using a smart semantic field that draws out connotations of the ignorance and stupidity that often plagues the political systems of countries all over the world, not just America.

As the sample from ‘The Death of Baldr and the Coming War’ suggests, A is in concurrence with those who wish to bring about the emancipation of the human race from economic and spiritual restraints that seem to dominate the Western societies, let alone anywhere else. Although I’m weary of political based music, particularly that of a National Socialist vibe (which this is not), I do find myself agreeing with a few of the things he appears to dream of. A society dominated by money has always seemed ridiculous to me. It may sound like some sort of far-fetched romantic vision, but a life of raising a family, in a remote part of the world, during the middle of the 10th century, for example, seems like it would be ideal. To leave behind the hassle that living in the modernised world brings down on our tired shoulders is a nice idea, but whether it would really be paradise is another matter altogether, one which I am not likely to believe. We humans tend to idealise things and a society free of the commitments to general society would be wonderful. I’m such a selfish person and often, politically driven metal, sounds selfish to me too, so I can understand the passionate feeling behind the lyrics, which are obviously important to bands like Panopticon, with A being more like a news reporter, than a musician. He seems intent of addressing the listener with the truth, as he sees it, not what the media tells us. According to the opening song, the problem isn’t with the idea of global warming, but is much more pressing than that.

Sometimes I feel like ‘Collapse’ is a message from the future, warning us about the real problems we’re facing right now, which oppose what we think we’re dealing with. This futuristic vibe comes primarily from the lyrics and the instrumentation backs it up with an aggressive atmosphere, caused primarily by the penetrating percussion sections which relies heavily on double bass and snare attacks and the bass, oddly enough, with its tremolo style under the surface coating provided by elements like the guitars, percussion and vocals. Despite the production, which enforces a chaotic style upon us, A manages to make the bass distinctive, despite its low ebbing sound, which should seemingly fuse with the background distortion of the guitars. Somehow, majestically, the bass is free roaming and doesn’t encounter any problems in regards to the production. Also somewhat different from the debut, A has decided to opt for a more experimental sound, drawing elements like the ebow and the keyboards into contention. It has been stated by professionals that anger often ends up replacing sadness, which would explain concepts like karma and revenge. What goes around, truly does come around in regards to Panopticon. At first, we’re dealt an informative sample, taken from a politically driven attack and then in comes the powerfully fast aggressive instrumentation, which draws away from the underlying sadness that has evidently effected the mindset of A. As the songs progress, slower, ambient passages become the norm and A establishes himself as a thinking man’s musician, not just your average raw black metal musician intent of a chaotic dissection of society which leaves us pondering the point of it all.

His emotions, feelings and thoughts are intelligently spread out across this experimental piece and draw us out like hermit crabs and into his colourful world of politics, religion and overwhelming anarchy. Take the middle-to-end of the inspiring ‘The Death of Baldr and the Coming War’, for example. A uses a folk-ish structure to inflict a sense of hopeful melancholy as he joyously envisions a world of anarchy and disruption. The banjo-style acoustics are odd, but delightful. The lack of vocals is imperative to this sound because A doesn’t disrupt the harmony of his voice by using a cleaner style. He sticks to his enforcing rasps and leaves it at that, for this song. The juxtaposition is ideally explored, too. A uses aggressive instruments for aggressive passages and softer instruments for that epic folk vibe that also carries over to songs like ‘Aptgangr’ with its emotionally stirring acoustic guitar and Across Tundras styled semi-acoustic passage, which strains the sense, mixed in with the thunderous samples of an oncoming storm, although slightly clichéd, this romantic beginning is sweet and rather soothing in comparison to the previous song. The level of diversity has grown from the self-titled record to this, ‘Collapse’, which demonstrates the many errors of mankind and how we deal with the deconstruction of the world. The new features are all very welcomed and the remaining old one’s are always invited back like an old friend would be. The self-titled piece began the journey and if ‘Collapse’ is where it ends, this is as fitting an ending as humanly possible - an absolute masterpiece. It seems fitting to end this review with some lyrics;

“the iron fist of the sentinel
smashing our hopes as it comes down
we abandon lofty hopes
with our feet planted further in the ground.”


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