Music / Panopticon
Panopticon is a Black Metal
band from Minnesota (formerly Louisville, KY) consisting of Austin Lunn
. The band has attracted considerable notoriety in recent years for two factors making the band fairly unique in the crowded field of black metal: Lunn's earnest anarchism
, and the substantial bluegrass
influence on much of Panopticon's music. Those are hardly the only things that make the band notable, however, and Lunn has built a substantial discography with Panopticon and as a member of several other bands (including Throndt, Falls of Rauros, Seidr, and Kólga) that has built him quite a reputation.
Panopticon's style tends to vary substantially from release to release, but listeners can generally expect a rather large amount of Epic Rocking
. Other genres that have been known to influence Panopticon, besides the ones listed above, include Shoegaze
, Hardcore Punk
, Crust Punk, Progressive Rock
, and Melodic Death Metal
For the identically named album by Isis (both are named after Jeremy Bentham's concept for a prison), see Isis
- Panopticon (2008)
- It's Later Than You Think (2009, split with Wheels Within Wheels)
- Collapse (2009; reissued on vinyl in 2010 with a bonus track featuring Rob "The Baron" Miller of Amebix)
- Lake of Blood/Panopticon (2009, split)
- ...On the Subject of Mortality (2010)
- Panopticon/When Bitter Spring Sleeps (2010, split; includes first half of ...OtSoM)
- Skagos/Panopticon (2010, split; includes second half of ...OtSoM)
- Wheels Within Wheels/Panopticon II (2011, split)
- Social Disservices (2011)
- Kentucky (2012)
- Vestiges/Panopticon (2013, split)
- Brotherhood (2014, split with Falls of Rauros)
- Roads to the North (2014)
- Autumn Eternal (2015)
- Panopticon/Waldgeflüster (2016, split)
- Revisions of the Past (2016, anthology containing remastered versions of ...On the Subject of Mortality and Social Disservices)
- Album Intro Track: Several albums have them.
- Ambient: The traditional folk song "Black Waters" is reimagined as an example of this genre on Kentucky
- Anarchy Is Chaos: Completely averted, naturally.
- Bilingual Bonus: Several samples in ...On the Subject of Mortality, being from The Seventh Seal, are in Swedish.
- Black Metal: Panopticon's primary style.
- Bluegrass: Shows up on parts of It's Later Than You Think, Collapse, Kentucky, Roads to the North, and Autumn Eternal.
- Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Also averted. "The Ghosts of Haymarket Square" deconstructs the reaction to the Haymarket massacre.
- Breather Episode: Most albums have at least one of these. To name a few representative examples: the bluegrass coda of "The Death of Baldr and the Coming War", the acoustic instrumental break on "Merkstave", the bluegrass/folk songs on Kentucky, "The Long Road Part I: One Last Fire..." and "Norwegian Nights" on Roads to the North. There are many, many more.
- Cluster F-Bomb: "A Letter". The lyrics haven't been officially released and the vocals are too low in the mix to make out all of them, but there's clearly quite a bit of this in it.
- Concept Album: Collapse, ...On the Subject of Mortality, Social Disservices, Kentucky, Roads to the North, and Autumn Eternal (the latter three of which make up a trilogy of thematically related albums) all qualify.
- The Cover Changes the Gender: "Come All Ye Coal Miners" referred to the singer being "a coal miner's wife" in the original version. Lunn naturally changed this in his cover (to "son").
- Cover Version: Three songs on Kentucky are Lunn's covers of folk songs associated with the labour movement in Kentucky. Panopticon has also covered two songs by Amebix, "ICBM" (on the self-titled) and "The Beginning of the End" (on the vinyl version of Collapse), and one song by Suicide Nation, "Collapse & Die" (on the Vestiges split). Meanwhile, Waldgeflüster covered Panopticon's own "Norwegian Nights" on their split together, while Panopticon returned the favour by covering Waldgeflüster's "Trauerweide II".
- Epic Instrumental Opener: Several songs. The vocals on "...Speaking..." don't enter until about halfway into the track.
- Epic Rocking: A list of examples over ten minutes in length includes: "Flag Burner, Torch Bearer" (10:40), "I, Hedonist" (15:08), "...Speaking..." (12:51), "The Lay of Grimnir" (13:06), "...Speaking...(Collapsed Version)" (10:40), "La Passione di Sacco & Vanzetti" (11:37), "The Death of Baldr and the Coming War" (15:43), "Aptrgangr" (15:11), "Merkstave" (10:02), "Living in the Valley of the Shadow of Death" (11:29), "The Road to Bergen" (10:33), "From Bergen to Jotunheim Forest" (10:53), "The White Mountain View" (10:57), "Resident" (11:15), "Patient" (20:01), "Bodies Under the Falls" (10:25), "Black Soot and Red Blood" (10:04), "Killing the Giants as They Sleep" (12:19), "Where Mountains Pierce the Sky" (12:43), "The Long Road" (23:28, and in three movements), "Chase the Grain" (12:14), "A Superior Lament" (11:01), "Håkan's Song" (12:35). Also commonly occurs on the other side of Panopticon splits; every band Panopticon has recorded splits with has exhibited this trope at some time in their career, although not always on the split.
- Folk Metal: Several of Panopticon's albums qualify as this in addition to being Black Metal, though they're an unusually Appalachian take on the genre due to the bluegrass influence.
- Green Aesop: Many songs have environmentalist themes. Lunn has also donated some of his profits from Kentucky to a charity fighting mountaintop removal and from the Lake of Blood split to animal rights organisations.
- I Am the Band: Panopticon is a solo project. Session musicians and guest vocalists occasionally appear, but the band has always consisted solely of Lunn.
- Instrumentals: ...On the Subject of Mortality, Kentucky, Roads to the North, and Autumn Eternal have them. "Haunted America" could be considered one as well, since it only contains samples of speech.
- Loudness War: Averted. Panopticon's least dynamic record (the CD of Collapse) still comes in at DR7 (the LP was given a separate mastering that was more dynamic). Most of them are around DR10, and many of the splits have even more dynamic range (the Wheels Within Wheels splits average out at about DR12 and some tracks on On the Subject of Mortality reach up to DR15). The sole case of this trope being played straight in Panopticon's discography seems to be the track "La passione di Sacco & Vanzetti" from the Lake of Blood split, which comes out at DR5, but due to the other track on that split, "Haunted America", coming out at DR15 Panopticon's side of the split overall still comes out to DR9.
- Melodic Death Metal: A noted influence on the metal parts of Roads to the North.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: The metal portions are usually a 9 or a 10, while the acoustic portions go as low as 1.
- Not Afraid to Die: "Black Soot and Red Blood" contains a sample of a woman saying, "I'm ready to die. Are you?"
- Post-Rock: A major influence on nearly all of Lunn's work. He has named Godspeed You! Black Emperor as one of his favourite artists, so this should not be a surprise.
- Progressive Rock: A major influence on "The Long Road" suite among other pieces.
- Rearrange the Song: "...Speaking...(Collapsed Version)" is a bluegrass rendition of a metal song from the first album.
- Remaster: Revisions of the Past provides an unambiguously beneficial version of this trope; as with all of Panopticon's music, it is free from Loudness War shenanigans, and the instrumental clarity of the new versions is vastly improved. The only caveat is that, for some reason, the vinyl edition is being pressed on two records, meaning that the fourth side will run for twenty-nine and a half minutes; this was no doubt done to preserve the gapless song transition on that side, but with the downside of increasing the noise floor (pressing the album on three records would have prevented any side from having more than twenty minutes of music on it, thus keeping the noise floor lower).
- Sampling: Occurs commonly in Panopticon tracks. Examples include "I, Hedonist", "The Death of Baldr and the Coming War", "Haunted America", and nearly all of ...On the Subject of Mortality and Kentucky (samples are frequently taken from The Seventh Seal and Harlan County USA, respectively).
- Self-Titled Album: The début.
- Shoegaze: Several songs on ...On the Subject of Mortality are influenced by this genre, most notably "..Seeing..". The second Wheels Within Wheels split also bears a lot of influence from this genre, and it shows up in some other Panopticon songs too.
- Siamese Twin Songs/Fading into the Next Song: Quite a few song transitions on Kentucky and the self-titled album use one or both of these tropes (specifically: the first four tracks and "Archetype"->"Emma's Song" on the self-titled, "Bernheim Forest in Spring"->"Bodies Under the Falls", "Come All Ye Coal Miners"->"Black Soot and Red Blood", and "Which Side Are You On?"->"Killing the Giants as They Sleep"->"Black Waters" on Kentucky). There are also scattered examples on other albums (including "Merkstave"->"Idavoll" on Collapse, "Subject"->"Patient" on some versions of Social Disservices, "Can You Loan Me a Raven?"->"Gods of Flame" on Brotherhood, "The Echoes of a Disharmonic Evensong"->"Where Mountains Pierce the Sky" and "Norwegian Nights"->"In Silence" on Roads to the North).
- Sinister Surveillance: The band is named after Jeremy Bentham's concept for a prison, which was later expanded by Michel Foucault to apply to the modern "disciplinary" society in that hierarchical structures such as the army, the factory, the hospital, and the school have all evolved to fit Bentham's concept of a panopticon. Needless to say, this is a fitting name for an anarchist band.
- Sliding Scale of Libertarianism and Authoritarianism: Firmly at the libertarian (anarchist, to be more precise) end.
- Soprano and Gravel: Lunn usually uses the Metal Scream expected of black metal vocalists, but he can also sing very well. However, the two vocal techniques were not used in the same song until Autumn Eternal.
- Spoken Word in Music: Occurs frequently, usually overlapping with sampling. See above. "Merkstave" contains an example that is not a sample; it's a reading from Henry David Thoreau.
- Subdued Section: Since Panopticon is a very dynamic band, many of its songs have these.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "...Speaking...(Collapsed Version)", "Idavoll", "To Make an Idol of Our Fear and Call It God", most of the songs on Wheels Within Wheels/Panopticon II, over half the songs on Kentucky, "The Long Road, Pt. I: One Last Fire...", "Norwegian Nights", "Tamarack's Gold Returns", "Trauerweide II", possibly others.
- Uncommon Time: The second half of "The Long Road, Pt. II: Capricious Miles" is in 7/4.