Panopticon – Kentucky

Home indeed is where the heart is. Even though sole member, Austin Lunn, of the ever prolific and creatively gifted Panopticon may no longer dwell on Kentuckian soil, his soul pines for it’s landscapes, it’s history and people every moment he’s away. “Kentucky” is the latest release in a long line of powerful albums; both musically and in terms of social/political content. It finds Austin taking in all the excellent moments and unique building blocks lurking in his back catalog and fine tuning them to further explore other musical avenues and assimilate them into Panopticon’s already colorful framework.
Having been previously classified as a “bluegrass” black metal album, the word on the street isn’t too far off the mark. Kentucky benefits greatly from a very “Country” sounding form of bluegrass that sits alongside the metal elements on this album without blinking an eye, or sounding out of place. Banjo, fiddle, mandolin, tin whistle, and acoustic guitar create an atmosphere unlike any other you have heard on an album from the BM genre. Even though both styles of music are often separate from each other, when they unite as found on the well written track, “Black Soot and Red Blood”, it feels like the circle is complete. The blue grass gives this album a very honest and human quality with songs like “Which Side are you On” and “Come all ye Coal Miners” offering a true feeling of suffering amidst a backdrop of technical drum work and erie black metal that soars with moving melodies and fierce musicianship. This is further accentuated by Lunn’s pitch singing as he becomes very reminiscent of a young Johnny Cash, before erupting into the throaty caustic screams that ravish the distorted guitars and coiling riff structures. Recorded by Lunn and mixed/mastered by Colin Marston, Kentucky is the best sounding release in Panopticons arsenal. Where the dense nature of this music used to occasionally become obfuscated, every note, beat and scream here can be felt, further allowing the listener to connect deeply with the content and feel the Appalachian atmosphere swirling and enveloping the vocal samples and poignant messages that speak of murder, injustice and struggle in face of true adversity.
Empowered with lyrical content that documents the plight of the downtrodden coal miners of old, with particular focus on their bloody fight for the right of representation of a Union as they combated poor pay and horrible working conditions at the hands of the rich Coal Barons, Kentucky also delves into the slaughter of Native Americans on “Bodies Under the Falls”. I have always respected this musical entity and Lunn for the time and care he puts into the concept of each album and lyrical content. The meaning behind the song is just as, if not more so important than the well considered riffs that give each message a vehicle to inform and guide the listener not only through the album, but to a way of thinking that recognizes there are more important, and yes… “scary” things in the world happening to good people, other than the god vs satan rhetoric infinitely rehashed in the metal community. This, along with the essay from Lunn accompanying every album, documenting what the meaning behind the album and the songs is, further shows Panopticon’s hand and gives us all a glimpse into the soul of it’s creator making it even that much more personal and important.
Kentucky is one of those albums that will stay with you and beg for repeated listens. With an open minded take on a bloated genre and obvious passion for everything that goes into the final product, Austin has indeed created a lot of great music leading to this point, but in so many ways, Kentucky will be one of those special albums people go back to and realize just how pivotal it is/was in kicking US black metal into more interesting realms of musical expression. -Marty
Pagan Flames/Handmade Birds

~ by martyworm on September 30, 2012.

2 Responses to “Panopticon – Kentucky”

  1. […] Panopticon – Kentucky The originality and power of what may be the world’s first “blackgrass” album hit me like […]

  2. […] The first show I covered for the site was Noam Pikelny, Bryan Sutton, Jesse Cobb, Luke Bella, and Greg Garrison promoting Noam Pikelny’s newest album. I got to catch five more shows, including Peter Rowan, Leftover Salmon, Trampled by Turtles, and The HillBenders. I’ve also had the pleasure of reviewing releases from Larry Keel and Keller Williams, as well as introducing readers to “bluegrass black metal” via and their review of Panopticon’s Kentucky. […]

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