Review Summary: An incredible influx of new influences leaves On The Subject Of Mortality torn between its focus on creating a solid base and delving into experimental grounds
The aura that surrounds Austin Lundr’s latest release On The Subject Of Mortality
, follow up to 2009’s Collapse
, is more subdued than his previous releases would have foreshadowed. When things are going all-out and the tumbling drum fills and faded guitars are crashing down unabated, there are certainly flashbacks to the ferocity of Panopticon’s two previous releases, but somehow the grand scheme of things is largely changed. The great emphasis placed on melody and building, changing moods seems amplified here, a reflection of a band which has begun to shift direction towards new influences while still keeping its feet firmly planted on territory that they know best. Whether or not these relatively minor but still noticeable differences in the way Lundr approaches his compositions are a product of the concept surrounding On The Subject Of Mortality
or are a more permanent shift remains to be seen, but until then it is safe to say that the face of Panopticon, while still immediately recognizable, has begun to morph.
The immense chaos weaved within “Living Eulogy”, especially its drumming, will not be a sound that is foreign to those who know Panopticon well. The abrasive production placed on the guitars contrasts its riffing, which is immensely atmospheric and even, in a sense, melodic, leaving behind the heartless and cliché bands of recycled tremolo riffing that often plagues black metal that doesn’t have a sense of direction or individuality. This intensity couples well with the distant and rather minimalistic nature of the song’s bridge, and makes the pairing between the old and the new almost natural. However, the building ambiance of “…Seeing...” may take some by surprise with its seemingly needless piling (a more drawn-out reflection of its counterpart “…Speaking…” on Panopticon’s self-titled), constructing itself for a notable chunk of the track before the guitars and vocals join in for a continued uphill climb toward a climax that is never fully realized.
Lundr has stated that bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sunny Day Real Estate have influenced his songwriting on On The Subject Of Mortality
, a fact that is clearly apparent from the moment the album opens until its close. While Collapse
was a noticeable contrast from any of his previous releases, On The Subject Of Mortality
is a further exploration into new territory. The album is still firmly rooted in the atmospheric black metal that Panopticon is known for, but the slower, more deliberate pace and expanded experimentation leaves the album torn. On the one hand, the experimentation incorporates itself well with the base product, but on the other it drags down the power and quality of an already established sound.
It’s this sort of hit-or-miss tendency with the influx of new ideas and sounds that, in the end, leaves On The Subject Of Mortality
below Panopticon’s previous releases. However, it’s difficult to compare each of his albums simply because they all present a different interpretation of the same foundation, and thus stand apart from each other. It is hard to fault Lundr for his desire to stretch- to explore and experiment with different sounds, instead of setting his focus on one small area and milking it dry. For the most part it works, and the sheer songwriting skill of Lundr prevails, churning out a set of songs that is undoubtedly enjoyable, albeit more relaxed and thoughtful than ever before. Despite a noticeable drop in quality from past material, there should be absolutely no reason why On The Subject Of Mortality
should be overlooked.