Review Summary: Panopticon holds host to some of the band's truly epic creations. A vast sea of density, ambiance and wonder, some may view it as the band's magnum opus. As for Oceanic lovers, this often comes in at a close seconds.
The word 'epic' can be attributed to many things in life. When speaking about music, things that are labeled as such are because that have the capability to invoke certain emotions within people. Isis are a band that are more than capable of achieving this - the band have consistently released excellent records that showcase their incredibly dense brand of post metal to perfection. Panopticon is indeed an album that could be classified as one that is quite epic. There are many reasons as to why this is...
The album opens up with one of the highlights. So Did We thrusts you straight into it, with a dense series of riffs coupled with the simple yet hypnotic drumming and forceful vocals of Aaron Turner. Another really nice feature throughout is that the bass is highly audible, at times almost completely indistinguishable from the guitars. It will weave in and out of the mix with some very pleasing yet never overtly technical lines, all the more contributing to the immense wall of sound the band create. So Did We is also a perfect example of how the band juxtapose their mammoth heavy sections with calming, almost ambient like pieces that help to add so much diversity into their sound. Aaron Turner possesses an incredibly beastly harsh tone when employing his screamed vocal technique. The sheer force of his voice is quite remarkable and whilst I'd say that his harsh vocals are his forte, his clean are more than adequate. Even though they were much more prominent on the band's latest release, In the Absence of Truth, they occasionally crop up here and there throughout Panopticon.
In terms of further album pros, Panopticon doesn't fall short. Backlit creates a strange kind of atmosphere, retaining and uplifting feel throughout but never in the way that a song structured around major keys would establish. Whilst Oceanic was slightly darker in it's theme, mostly because of the concept it was centered around, Panopticon retains a slightly more upbeat feel. With that said, the atmosphere created by the album is an awesomely epic one - this is further demonstrated by the track In Fiction, which builds up huge amounts of suspense with a lengthy, yet never uninteresting introduction. Tracks such as Syndic Calls and Wills Dissolve will follow similar patterns to aforementioned tracks but with Isis being the band they are, they always manage to retain the listener's attention. Their combination of density and ambiance is definitely a winner throughout.
As far as cons go, Panopticon is an album that lacks them, almost entirely. Isis write lengthy songs, which may be a very obvious statement to make. But in short, that is likely to put some people off. Post metal is also not everybody's cup of tea - but if you have heard the likes of the instrumental Pelican and are yet to check Isis out, then they are definitely worth your time. People searching for wild technicality or blazing virtuosity should also look elsewhere, as neither of these things are the focus or central point of Isis' music. But if you like your music to be heavy, intelligent and a little different as far as metal goes, then Panopticon is a surefire way to get you interested. Whilst not a classic, Panopticon remains to be one of the band's more epic records, perhaps more so than Oceanic at points. Just bear in mind that you'll probably have to be a little patient at first (especially those new to the whole post rock/metal deal).
So Did We