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Panopticon - Roads To The North Award winner

Roads To The North
by H.P. Buttcraft at 14 September 2014, 11:17 AM

PANOPTICON is the underground Folk Black Metal project from Kentucky-native Austin Lunn, also known as “A. Lunn”. From the music he performs all himself, you can venture to say that he is a very interesting personality. With help from some guest musicians from WALDGEFLUSTER, CELESTIIAL, BLOOD AND SUN, OBSEQUIAE, ALTAR OF PLAGUES, VIT, AUSTARAS, and VUKARI, and was engineered & produced by ever-prolific sound wizard Colin Marston.

Austin performs all of the instruments on PANOPTICON’s latest record, “Roads to the North”. PANOPTICON keeps true to the album title’s definition by presenting us all to the lesser known “Roads to the North”-ern sound of his personal musical expression. These roads are symbolized by the contrasts of genre on the detailed map of art and music, which rearrange and deconstruct themselves again and again until made into something that is true or absolute. Sometimes these creations are hideous and blasphemous but romanticized to a point of mythological representation.

Roads to the North” is a strange take on what we have come to know as “folk metal.”
The first part of Austin Lunn’s symphonic musical trilogy “The Last Fire: The Long Road, pt. I” is something that I don’t think I’ve ever encountered before in my entire life of listening to heavy metal. Austin Lunn snuck in a bluegrass ho-down on this record! And not like that time TAAKE played a banjo over one of their songs on “Noregs Vaapen”. This is the first part of “The Long Road” trilogy, and its just a hill folk, bluegrass, folk jamboree. A startling exchange, even from the woodwind-laden folk refrain in the middle of the epic track “Where Mountains Pierce the Sky”, which even throws in elements of melodic death metal and even some small slivers of metalcore similar to VEHEMENCE & VITAL REMAINS. The second two movements of this trilogy compliment the ho-down with two heavy and melodic compositions, the last part “The Sigh of Summer”, tying this trilogy all together with a dreamy, post-rock spell intertwined with soaring melodic metal guitar leads.

This unique incorporation of banjos, the dobro, Native American flutes and fiddle are really the things that give a concrete character to “Roads to the North”. They are not irrelevant in their inclusion because these instruments perfectly create songs about escape, leaving, and grieving. This album seems to be mostly about this painful yet empowering journey through the emotions of a musician who is going through a transition and maturation. This metamorphosis in artistic expression is easily detailed by PANOPTICON’s abundant presence of folk instruments.

The vocals represent a strong sense of sadness and isolation with twinges of trouble and doubt. But through this pain comes knowledge and inspiration, which are gifted to PANOPTICON’s audience through the songs on “Roads to the North”. These gifts are to be interpreted entire subjectively but Austin Lunn has been so generous with his ability to keep the music interesting throughout its extended track lengths. PANOPTICON accomplishes a story told through atmospheres and expression told from every instrument being played on the record. “Roads to the North” is an album that should be held to the same standards of other great folk metal records. Ones that come to mind are “The Mantle” by AGALLOCH, “Kivenkantaja” by MOONSORROW, “Bergtatt” by ULVER & “The Malediction Fields” by FEN. 

4 Star Rating

1. The Echoes of a Disharmonic Evensong
2. Where Mountains Pierce the Sky
3. One Last Fire (The Long Road, pt. I)
4. Capricious Miles (The Long Road, pt. II)
5. The Sigh of Summer (The Long Road, pt. III)
6. Norwegian Nights
7. In Silence
8. Chase the Grain
Austin L. Lunn - All instruments, vocals
Record Label: Nordvis Records


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