Album Review: Roads to the North by Panopticon
Posted by RiffRaff
“Mid-summer…when the alchemy of Nature transmutes the sylvan landscape to one vivid and almost homogeneous mass of green; when the senses are well-nigh intoxicated with the surging seas of moist verdure and the subtly indefinable odours of the soil and the vegetation. In such surroundings the mind loses its perspective; time and space become trivial and unreal, and echoes of a forgotten prehistoric past beat insistently upon the enthralled consciousness.”
H. P. Lovecraft, “The Tomb”
Nature is chaotic, random, and imperfect. There is no perfect symmetry, order, nothing follows the rules; each of its parts is unique unto itself. And in this imperfection we can find perfection. Not in the sense of something tangible, but in a more profound sense. If everything we could hear, see, smell, touch were perfect, we might as well just curl up and pass on to whatever lies next; there would be nothing to explore, to contemplate, to surprise us. Yet in imperfection we can explore, contemplate, and be surprised. As we delve into the questions Nature presents to us we tangentially discover things about us and our world on a much deeper level. Something spiritual. And that makes us happy, and what is happiness but taking one step closer to finding perfection in Ourselves?
Hence why I find the music contained within Roads to the North by one-man band Panopticon so engaging and able to reach me on something deeper than the corporeal level. Everything about his style screams of imperfection, the flurries of black metal drums, the low-layered harsh vocals, the coarseness of the production. Yet at the same time he braids in Appalachian neo-folk soundscapes, haunting melodies, and atmospheres of majesty that scream of beauty. This mix makes me want to explore the music, to try to understand the chaos and find the beauty beneath the cacophony. It engages me unlike many bands can. In this engagement, as I explore the music I forget that I am exploring and just fall into the flow, in which its true beauty exposes itself and I am happy.
But for a more objective take on the music of Roads to the North, you will find a bevy of extreme metal styles intertwined with bouts of folk music. Elements of black metal, shoegaze, melo-death, prog, and post-metal blend to always offer different paths and alleyways for the songwriting to go down and sections and interludes of bluegrass work to lighten the constant assault of its visceral counterparts. For those familiar with Panopticon’s previous release Kentucky, you will still find that ‘Blackgrass’ style throughout the album, though not as pronounced and forefront.
Given the variety of angles, instruments, and soundscapes on the record as well as guest musician spots, there is never room for boredom. Combine that auditory engagement with how easy it is to just lose yourself in the music, Roads to the North delivers one heck of an experience, and one that demands many, many listens before it exposes its true self to you. Yet, dissimilar to many other dense records, this is quite accessible on first listen; a hallmark of great songwriting and instrumentation. Clocking in at over 70 minutes there is a lot to chew on and explore, and it’s worth every second. I can not recommend this record enough, a must have. Peace Love and Metal!!! 5/5
Roads to the North will be released on Aug. 1st, 2014 through Bindrune Recordings (through Nordvis in EU). You can find Panopticon’s back catalog on Bandcamp and you can be a chap and give him a ‘like’ on Facebook. If you would like to order Roads to the North on Bandcamp, keep an eye on Bindrune’s Bandcamp page where it will pop up closer to release date (also check out some of their artists, some pretty great stuff they offer).