Panopticon - ...And Again Into the Light
Bindrune Recordings
Atmospheric Black Metal
8 songs (1:11:05)
Release year: 2021
Official Bandcamp
Reviewed by Goat

Following the divisive in both formation and reaction Scars double-album experiment of 2018 where the folk and black metal elements of Panopticon's sound were separated, ...And Again Into the Light puts them together again and is accordingly an improvement on the previous release, if not quite up to the heights of the albums before that. Panopticon is the sort of project that lives and dies on its atmospheric impact, and so a lot of the impact of this music will depend on your tolerance and susceptibility to that sort of thing; perhaps less so than the sheer viscerality of, say, the best Electric Wizard releases, solid haymakers to the metaspiritual solar plexus. Panopticon is, instead, a rushing barrage of light blows, the drums being an almost liquid battery both aiding and hindering the effect. And that effect isn't helped by a distinctly odd production that frontloads the drums and drowns the guitars like this is mid-period Cryptopsy; the vocals fight through and aid the overall effect but a better production would have enhanced the melodic side of the band considerably.

It's not necessarily a bad thing that the production is a blizzard, of course; this is black metal! Yet even on the more violent cuts here like the battering Moth Eaten Soul, the sense of overwhelming deluge is acute particularly in the more death metal-influenced sections here and elsewhere. You can see the thinking behind it, if you squint, and focus more on the post-rock-influenced pieces like The Embers at Dawn, which expands over twelve minutes, sticking to melody even when it eventually launches into a rush of blackened violence beneath a shimmering violin. On the weakest piece present, Rope Burn Exit, the howls and violins drown out the other instruments at points to make for an uneasy listen - sad, for an otherwise excellent piece. Otherwise, it's a sharp, interesting album that will keep fans of the style entranced, especially on the likes of A Snowless Winter with the band's ghostly post-black, folk-infused melancholy that snags ears despite the twelve minute track length.

And those familiar with the project will know already of how tightly-woven folk is into the formula, if the opening title track isn't enough to tell you; a largely acoustic guitar and violin piece that leads smoothly (and rather beautifully) into the doom-tinged Dead Looms, that piece itself only turning metal around three minutes in. The heavier metals are more than represented, however and Panopticon is at its best when allowing them full power, using the folk/metal dichotomy at its most effective. Both of the twelve-minuters that end the album are fantastic, the aforementioned Embers at Dawn and especially finale Know Hope, coming in with a furious blackened gallop that devolves a little into doomy trudge and progressive meander. The sampled voiceover on the latter could easily have been dropped - adding absolutely nothing even if you can understand what's being said - and the ensuing resumption of blackened chaos, fading with more violins, is more than enough by itself to make for a dramatic album ending.

Quality, living and breathing with emotion and fervour, however flawed, resulting in a solid album. So how critical should a reviewer be in this instance? Of course, no surprise it turns out that when you're known for melding styles, separating them isn't the best of ideas! And it's difficult to deny that this is a marked step up in quality from Scars, despite again having the kind of production that makes you check that your headphones are plugged in properly. (Again, yes, they are!) Yet Panopticon is the very measure of a passion project, powered through sheer stubbornness if nothing else, and it's to Austin Lunn's credit that each album that comes forth from the Minnesotan forests is not just interesting, but has a lot to recommend it. The light returns to a band that never really lost it; the review coming a little later than the release date, true, but fitting the natural world's current descent into winter and the according dips in our moods.

Killing Songs :
Dead Looms, A Snowless Winter, Moth Eaten Soul, Know Hope
Goat quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Panopticon that we have reviewed:
Panopticon - The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Panopticon - Autumn Eternal reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Panopticon - Roads to the North reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Panopticon - Kentucky reviewed by Koeppe and quoted 75 / 100
Panopticon - Collapse reviewed by Charles and quoted 80 / 100
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