Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Panopticon - Kentucky

Whenever I have the pleasure of waking up in Kentucky, I stretch my arms out to greet the day. Invariably I then hear the opening banjo licks of Panopticon's album of the same name. When I climbed the beautiful winding hills of Bernheim Forest beneath gigantic trees last summer with Austin Lunn, I heard the familiar penny whistle melodies and Chuck Schuldiner-esque guitar leads heard throughout "Bodies Under the Falls." When I spent time among the people of Louisville I heard the soaring melody of "Black Soot and Red Blood." When I hear my friends Austin, Adam, and Crow lament upon frustrations concerning how mining corporations have permanently destroyed miles upon miles of their beautiful home's mountain tops, I of course hear the plodding blast beats and somber middle section of "Killing the Giants as They Sleep." I even find myself singing the catchy riffs throughout the album in my head when I'm at work or driving. When I play the album I sing along to the riffs and air drum to the preposterously skilled percussion. This album has stuck with me more than any in the last few years for so many reasons. I find it jarringly apparent that the album's subject matter has given Austin the motivation to weave his most musically effective and memorable album yet.
Two years ago I hadn't been to Kentucky, and I hadn't heard Panopticon's album of the same name. Today, the state and the album represent each other boldly in my eyes, and they both have become some very dear things to me. Such has the friendship Austin and I have found this year. I wanted to finally offer my take on this album because I think I offer a unique and closer perspective on the album than most, and maybe what I have to say will help some folks understand it better if they care to listen to it and learn from it.
Panopticon is a very different band than a lot of people are used to. The ever-trodden path of black metal since 1982 has been to portray a guise that you are not. To use emotions and urges to give a theatrical and exaggerated voice to thoughts. To step outside of the human shell and personify metaphorically certain emotions and ideals that seem somehow larger than life. In stark contrast, Austin lets absolutely nothing stand between his music and who he is. When you listen to Panopticon, you are experiencing the pure unadulterated heart and soul that he is offering you. you can take it or leave it. Austin plays black metal and blue grass because that is who he is, and this is how he speaks to you. Austin and others argue that this fact invalidates the label of "black metal" from Panopticon, but I make this comparison sonically, and not politically. Some reviewers have had the gaul to say that the blue grass isn't to their liking and that it should be different or not present at all. Some have even gone as far as saying that the blue grass should sound more like European folk. Or that the metal sections aren't "folky enough", etc. As fucking outlandish as this is, I won't address it specifically. Asking that of any artist is preposterous. Lets be honest folks, we are all grown ups and you wouldn't know about this album if you didn't have the capacity to fully understand Panopticon's effective language of metal and blue grass.
I am proud of my friend Austin for so many reasons but here I should note that Kentucky is an album Austin should be proud of. It speaks vastly of a place he loves and does so in such a heartfelt way that it evades criticism by standing above it in a place where this type of dialogue contains no dishonesty, or insipid cruel humanity.
Kentucky the album successfully acts as a conduit between you and the topics that Austin holds dear enough to write about. Instead of acting as an end all authority upon the topic, it verily tells a story and then asks you confrontingly "Which Side are You On?"

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