Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Red And Anarchist Black Metal (RABM): Two Very Different Approaches - Part Two


Masterminded by talented multi-instrumentalist Austin Lunn, Panopticon break the stereotype of the one man black metal band. With one man black metal bands, most people would think of a kid in his late teens or early twenties making a raw, lo-fi black metal record on his computer in his bedroom. Panopticon are anything but that. Austin is a talented drummer, known for his abrasive and unorthodox style, although he knows when hold back when need be. As well as that, he plays the rest of the instruments, which go beyond your what you would typically expect. Most notably, Austin is very good at playing blue grass on the banjo, which was an integral part of two of his records - Collapse and Kentucky (which surprisingly works very well). 

Panopticon is known for experimenting with their sound. They have released four albums so far - five if you count ...On The Subject Of Mortality, which was originally released in two parts as part of splits. Each of their albums sound different. Their first was a very raw mix of crust and black metal. Their second was a very dark and aggressive mix of bluegrass and black metal. The aforementioned ...On The Subject Of Mortality was post-rock and ambient mixed with black metal. Social Disservices was filled with bleak, devastating soundscapes. Kentucky was also a mix of of bluegrass and black metal, but deviated greatly from the sound of Collapse. The bluegrass in Collapse was a lot darker and often slower. The black metal in Kentucky was not as brutal and featured much more melody. The second split with Wheels Within Wheels even dabbled in shoegaze.

Sound is not the only factor in which Panopticon records deviate from each other. The stories behind them are all different. Collapse is basically speculative fiction, which portrays life after the collapse of the government. Social Disservices deals largely with America's (lack of) social safety net. ...On The Subject Of Mortality's title speaks for itself. Kentucky is an homage to the state in which Austin resides, largely focusing on its history of coal miners and the eco-pollitcal issue of mountain top removal. 

Panopticon has an approach that differs greatly from fellow RABM band Iskra's essay-esque lyrical style. Austin's lyrics are never preachy and his words aren't about getting you to have the exact same view of him on a variety of socio-political issues. The lyrics of Panopticon are much more abstract and poetic. This is a much better approach than having lyrics that read like a poli-sci essay, which many people find preachy and even sometimes condescending (some political bands do have a holier-than-thou attitude when it comes to political issues). No, Panopticon's lyrics don't shove anything down your throat. They do, however, make you think:
Predator and prey.
The wolf grinds its steel teeth.
In a false twilight, the night came so long ago: When children where domesticated and caged in white rooms.
A helpless herd to wringing hands.

His back dented with high-heels, cleaved into the meat of his shoulders.
Breast-fed toxic waste, the umbilical noose.
Born into death, neglected battered and wasting away.

Panopticon is a one of a kind band. RABM doesn't really begin to cover it, besides that tag seems to describe more about lyrics and the way the band presents themselves rather than actual music content. It can basically mean any black metal band that centres around their leftwing ideologies. Panopticon play a variety of different styles, and do not always stick to black metal. Black metal and bluegrass is a very odd combination. The two being integrated in a way that is amazing is nothing short of a miracle. This band is at the forefront of RABM and one of the main things keeping it from becoming redundant. 

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