One of the highlights be able to write about music for me over the last few years is the amount of bands that have changed my way of thinking about music, and introduced me to something new. Panopticon, masterminded by American multi instrumentalist Austin Lunn together with some guest vocalists, including Altar Of Plagues’ Dave Condon are the latest to do this, and “Roads To The North” is the sixth full-length album in the bands career.
“Roads To The North” is an album that draws influence from a range of different sources and scenes, and opening track ‘The Echoes Of A Disharmonic Evensong’ is a fine introduction to this. The first couple of minutes are slightly misleading as it starts with quite a generic sounding haunting intro, which soon gives way to thundering chaotic black metal. From this moment on, the 8 tracks showcase an astounding talent that dares to go where few would venture.
This is most apparent during the three part suite of ‘The Long Road’, where each part takes on a different life and style from the Kentucky Bluegrass of Lunn’s home in part 1, through the vicious brutality of part 2, to the final part of the trilogy, which begins with three minutes of instrumental ambience. The album takes on another different personality with ‘Norwegian Nights’, the shortest and most mellow track on here, with clean vocals accompanying the acoustic melody. Closer ‘Chase The Grain’ brings the album to an almighty conclusion, bringing together the whole range of music that has featured and crafting a sublime piece of work. A fitting end to a quite stunning album.
It is very difficult to do this album justice, as Lunn fits in as much into this seventy minutes than a lot of other musicians do in entire careers, and very few put it together to such good effect. The best thing I can say is that after a couple of listens, it made me investigate the rest of the Panopticon catalogue as soon as I could. Such is the depth of music and emotion on the album, it really does take more than a few listens to take it all in, but that few hours is time really well spent and the rewards for doing so will soon become apparent.