We’re familiar with Austin Lunn’s home-grown, folk metal Panopticon around these parts. His bluegrass-infused black metal has garnered justifiable (though some say excessive) acclaim, especially as his work has become progressively more melodic and accessible. But this time around he’s sharing album space with German folk-meisters Waldgeflüster, with whom I am less familiar. The split apparently had its roots in the bottom of many beers – as many of the best ideas do – shared between Lunn and Winterherz (of Waldgeflüster) and I was eager to hear what they’d produced.
Waldgeflüster‘s half comes first and it quickly becomes clear why Lunn tied up with these guys. Their long track, “Der Traumschänder,” is very Panopticon: it’s atmospheric and melody-drenched black metal with acoustic folk interludes and dynamic song-writing to mitigate its 12 minute length. It’s similarly epic and emotionally-evocative, particularly as it intensifies at its conclusion. On the flip side, they favor a more spacious sound-stage, lending an airy quality to their acoustic guitar and violin work. It’s pleasant stuff but the master could afford more breathing room to enhance these qualities: the dynamic range is good but it goes to show that this is only one aspect of an album’s production.
The second half is, of course, occupied by Panopticon. “Håkan’s Song” is an unexpected step back from Autumn Eternal and Roads to the North, sounding more akin to Lunn’s raw, earlier work. It’s refreshing after the almost saccharine melodic quality to Autumn Eternal. The punchy drum tone is commendable, as is the grinding, buzzing guitar tone. It’s less dynamic but more consistent than “Der Traumschänder,” holding its tone and passages for longer stretches. Whereas the former chops and changes frequently, “Håkan’s Song” is better described in 3 phases, the second a protracted interlude. I prefer this as it allows the song to develop more naturally.
Partitioning the two main tracks, each over 12 minutes, are short acoustic pieces – each covering a track of the other band. It’s a neat idea and effectively accentuates the subtle differences between the two bands. Waldgeflüster‘s cover of “Norwegian Nights” is better than the original, with a darker and more epic feel, better befitting the subject matter. Panopticon‘s cover of “Trauerweide II” is equally interesting, bringing the banjo and bluegrass to what was a moody, Northern European folk track. The split runs well as such, balancing the light and heavy, and East and West of the Atlantic Ocean.
I feel harsh marking down the split as both bands exemplify what’s good about melodic folk metal at the moment – but it feels very safe, particularly on Panopticon‘s side. Even though it touches on a ferocity quite absent in Autumn Eternal, “Håkan’s Song” is Lunn doing what Lunn does on a regular basis. He certainly wasn’t stretching himself to produce this material. Both halves are easily recommended, and feel free to bump the score if you can’t get enough of the style, but I see this as a sampler for folk metal. Nothing more, nothing less.
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: v2-v5 VBR mp3
Label: Bindrune Recordings | Nordvis
Websites: panopticon.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/panopticon | waldgeflüster.bandcamp.com | www.facebook.com/waldgeflüster
Releases Worldwide: March 11th, 2016