Music: Panopticon

Panopticon is a Black Metal band from 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, Post-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.

Discography

  • 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)
  • Falls of Rauros/Panopticon (2014, split)
  • Roads to the North (2014)

Tropes

  • 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
  • Bluegrass: Shows up on parts of It's Later Than You Think, Collapse, Kentucky, and Roads to the North.
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Also averted. "The Ghosts of Haymarket Square" deconstructs the reaction to the Haymarket massacre.
  • Concept Album: Collapse, ...On the Subject of Mortality, Social Disservices, and Kentucky 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).
  • 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). 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
  • 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 and Roads to the North 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 still comes in at DR8. Most of them are around DR10.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Shoegaze: Several songs on ...On the Subject of Mortality are influenced by this genre, most notably "..Seeing..". Shows up in some other Panopticon songs too.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: Nearly every song on Kentucky and the self-titled album, as well as some other examples.
  • 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.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Lunn usually uses the Metal Scream expected of black metal vocalists, but he can also sing very well. This has yet to happen on the same song, however.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Uncommon Time: The second half of "The Long Road, Pt. II: Capricious Miles" is in 7/4.