Panopticon Autumn Eternal 01Austin Lunn is proving to be one the most talented and prolific musicians in the modern American metal scene. Barely a year after releasing the excellent Roads to the North and contributing to Saor‘s stunning depiction of Celtic folklore, Aura, he’s returned with the seventh full-length under his primary Panopticon moniker. Slicker song-writing and shockingly melodic passages keep things fresh, but if you enjoyed his unique, bluegrass-infused melodic black metal previously then this is a sure-fire hit, as this is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Lunn is on a run! (sorry).

The most obvious aesthetic diversion from Roads to the North is the slicker, more modern production. This may seem an unconventional place to begin but it does play a significant role in differentiating Autumn Eternal from its predecessors. The contrast in dynamic range and purity of tone from the blackened metal into the folky bluegrass were previously stark. The transitions are now far more seamless and the record is aurally more consistent, favoring modern tones and a more balanced mix. It’s less wood shed and more recording studio. While this contributes to the wholesome sound and the smoother transitions benefit the melodic guitar which I love so, it undercuts some of the earthiness which characterized Kentucky and Roads to the North.

This process of streamlining was carried across to the song-writing too. The bluegrass – the element which ventures farthest from the metal mainstream, is still here but it plays a somewhat lesser role: where Roads to the North featured entire tracks devoted to chewing tobacco and banjos, these have been phased out in favor of integration into the long songs (discounting the predictably softer introduction). This enables subtler transitions and more fluid constructions, as Lunn flexes his song-writing muscles. Indeed, Autumn Eternal is shorter than previously and the metal-bluegrass ratio leans farther to the former for minutes played. Factoring in the production choices, this is a slicker release by a man hitting his stride as one of America’s premier black metal artists.

This is the greatest success of Autumn Eternal: stripping back the reliance on the bluegrass invites embellishment of the core melodies carried through the black metal. The riffs and guitar harmonies are highly engaging, fusing blastiness and aggression with simple melodies atop the mix. There’s a subtle evocation of the post-rock influenced wave of black metal but fear not: the guitars do the heavy lifting as opposed to synths and keyboards, and it’s still very much the Panopticon you know and love. The typically warm and heartfelt atmosphere contributes to this feeling, straying far from the Norwegian scene which begat this style. This description probably isn’t doing Lunn any favors, but it really does work brilliantly as highly melodic black metal. “Into the North Woods,” “Autumn Eternal,” “Pale Ghosts” and “The Wind’s Farewell” all stand out along these lines.

Panopticon Autumn Eternal 02Those of you observing the track-listing may have noticed that these are the encircling tracks opening and closing the record. The filling in this folk sandwich go by the names of “Oaks Ablaze,” “Sleep to the Sound of the Waves Crashing” and “A Superior Lament.” I mention these as Autumn Eternal‘s weak points are to be found in this flabby mid-section. The entire thing is still a little lengthy at over an hour so shaving the duller passages from these tracks would have ensured higher overall quality and a more digestible run-time. None are absolute throwaways by any stretch, but the first half of “Oaks Ablaze” is not so melodically engaging and “A Superior Lament” only reaches its pinnacle towards its conclusion. This is where Roads to the North and its greater predilection for bluegrass works in its favor: longer passages or entire tracks of folk music breaks down the album in a way which isn’t apparent here.

On such a criticism you may expect a lower mark with our stern scoring here at AMG. But when Lunn gets it right, and he does 90 per cent of the time, he gets it so right. Autumn Eternal makes for a magical listening experience, and I love that the percussion is so great too, consistent on all his releases. It’s a pleasure to hear black metal drumming which goes far beyond mere blast beats. There’s a very real risk that three slots in my top ten albums of the year will go to American folk metal, but when the quality is this high that almost seems inevitable.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 16-bit ALAC
Label: Bindrune Recordings | Nordvis
Websites: panopticon.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/panopticon
Releases Worldwide: October 16th, 2015

Share →
  • André Snyde Lopes

    I am in love with this album, right now. That is all.

  • UishidoX

    is this really out already? iTunes says it will come 30th October

    • On Bandcamp, it’s out.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I picked it up on bandcamp a week ago

      • basenjibrian

        dam you, AMG. My music budget steps up more $$$. :)

  • Simon Shrimpton

    Really liking the embedded track – Panopticon are going from strength to strength. I remember finding him back in the “Social Disservices” days and I’m not sure he’s released bad material since I’ve been following. Long may the trend continue.

    Lunn also seems both an interesting and genuine guy too from the few interviews I read.

    • Martin Knap

      To me it sounds like the Panopticon I wished Panopticon sounded like when listening to previous Panopticon albums.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Nice tongue twister.

        • Martin Knap

          it’s a purposefully convoluted sentence to make it sound more playful, I had to think about hard when I wrote it, because I was abusing alcohol at that moment :-)

  • Feytalist

    I don’t have much to add here, except that I love this album. More than the previous two, even.

    Brilliant stuff.

  • Genezer

    Looking forward to this one, loved Roads To The North

  • Wilhelm

    Don’t count us Americans out, as our lives get worse, our music gets better.

  • Meriyas

    Preordered this one on bandcamp. It really is a great listen, I do have to disagree with the minor complaints about the 3 middle songs. Sleep to the sounds and superior lament are two of my 3 favourite tracks on the album (into the north woods is best) and it’s the way they evolve throughout the song that makes them special. Either way, great review and a great album.

  • You wot m8?

    I can’t lie, I was really looking forward to this. I’m glad it delivered. Cheers!

  • DrChocolate

    This album does for me what it was like to Bergtatt the first time. It transports me. I’ve been listening to it non-stop and I constantly find myself stopping and and focusing up and just going, “Damn…” I adore this album and the three record streak Lunn’s on is freaking legendary.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      “Transport” is a good verb in describing the experience of listening to this. Autumn Eternal is euphoric, with soaring melodies and Wagnerian epicness. I feel enobled listening to it, and walk away with a smile on my face muttering “damn…wow”.

      This is Black Metal, but to me an entirely different kind of Black Metal.

  • Mark Hunt

    Their best one yet in my opinion. I guess the bluegrass and folky thingy kinda made them unique and interesting in the beginning, but I thought it never was embedded into the songs that well.
    Autumn Eternal is masterful.
    Reminds me of Wodensthrone’s Curse, not necessarily the music itself, but just it being a very complex Atmo/Black album that you can listen to dozens and dozens of times and still have it grow on you and become more interesting.
    I reckon this album will be very high up on a lot of AOTY lists, and rightfully so.

    • grooben

      Lunn is surely one of the greatest musicians in modern metal – not sure he gets the widespread respect he deserves.

  • Thatguy

    OK, I’m going to stick my neck out and be ‘That Guy’ again.

    This album is ‘nice’……

    There is nothing to dislike and I will listen to it again but it a solid 3.0 only for me.

    Hate me if you must.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      That’s exactly where I was with Roads to North, and it’s looking to be the same for this one.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I say his drumming alone makes this album worth a 4 at least…the man is a beast

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Horrendous and Lunn are really throwing the gauntlet down here. Two of the best albums released last year being backed up so quickly and in spectacular fashion.
    As a fan I really appreciate it!

  • Celaeno

    I’ve been waiting for this one. So happy with it. Great review.

  • Danno

    A lovely review, entrancing sounds, and no mention of Bentham or Foucault? Where AM I? For shame.

  • Opener on this is so good it’ll make the Colonel cry!

  • JeremyZero

    I love black metal and american folk music just about equally, the last three Panopticon albums are basically perfect for me.

  • BaconUnbound

    Longtime lurker but I just had to register for this…AMG (ALL of you!) have really gotten me into some great stuff I would’ve been hard-pressed to find on my own, last years’ Roads to the North no exception.

    But this embedded track (to me) is absolutely incredible…the simple but beautiful melody that Mr Lunn employs around the 1:45 mark for several measures, his cymbal work around the 2:11 mark, and my favorite part of the track, the ‘quieting’ from 3:30-4:20 with his artfully recorded drums, distant echoing screams and keyboard melodies..I feel like I’m sitting in the room right across from him as he taps around on the drums, it’s really fantastic.

    For a number of years I’ve been Death Metal, all Death Metal and nothing but the Death Metal. But you guys have really helped expand my musical palette to discover something like this. Thanks for that!

    BU!

  • Schmitzel

    Confession time: before I started reading AMG a couple of years ago, the American Black Metal scene was something I completely ignored. Maybe one Absu album once in a while, but aside from that nothing.
    I really want to thank you guys for opening my eyes, and most importantly for Panopticon which has become one of my favorite bands since last year’s Roads to the North. That album has been on constant rotation for me and I’ve recommended countless time.

    Awesome review El Cuervo, for a truly brilliant album (are we allowed to say that for Black Metal? :P ).

    BTW anyone know if this is coming out on google play? I hate paypal so Bandcamp doesn’t really work for me (and don’t get me started on iTunes)

  • I found the Roads to the north thanks to you. And now, I know this exists, and my week just got better and panopticon-ed. *.* loving it.