Panopticon
The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness


4.0
excellent

Review

by Xenophanes STAFF
April 9th, 2018 | 159 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Jagged and obtuse, Austin Lunn deconstructs black metal's biggest revelation into its disparate identities.

Despite releasing a handful of albums that drank from the same atmospheric black-metal well, every Panopticon record has felt like a revelation. More than folk-tinged black metal, Panopticon albums feel like the closest thing to “genuine” that the genre is likely to ever produce.

Dripping with that Kentucky bluegrass charm, Lunn's music is full of believable and heartfelt influences that, in spite of it all, never feels like a forced novelty. Such inspired feelings are rare in black metal, a genre which sees bands from the American Midwest, for example, emulate Scandinavian hell-raisers from the 80s/90s whose influences they themselves have never experienced. This is what makes Panopticon's music so engrossingly honest. Its disparate elements melding together seamlessly, creating something entirely new but still wholly familiar, feel real. It’s charming, rustic, and above all else, sincere.

As is tradition, The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness retains the blue collar sensibilities of Lunn’s most recent work as he’s clickin’ and pickin’ his way around a standard black metal back-drop. This time, the cathartic beauty is replaced with a colder and rustier take on his naturalist themes. It’s just as organic and sweeping as usual, but the production is much harsher and scathing; the traditionally distant vocals are even more otherworldly and nearly ineffable. Even the moments of levity are met with the cawing of crows and the cracking and burning of wood. It reeks of darker moods even when violins swell and the guitars fade. It’s black metal by way of Panopticon, with more drama and emotion than ever before.

The format feels different on The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness despite the overall familiarity. It's much "blacker" than anything Panopticon has released since 2009's Collapse. Riff heavy songs like "Blatimen" chug only with a sense of urgency, pummeling through a comparatively short run time. These songs run headlong into one another, offering up long stretches of uncompromising American black metal. It's a surprising turn for Lunn, who until now was unfolding a clear vision of where his music was headed.

But wait, there's more!

The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness is actually a double album (or two different albums") Like a psyche ripped in half, the first part is Panopticon's black metal side while the second part see's his more bluegrass identity gain full autonomy. Thematically it is still a black metal record. The influence of nature and death are ever present, with a bleak atmosphere blanketing each piece. At its core, however, it is folk record. It’s ghostly and cold; hollow but full of deep tones and rich sounds. Think more Giles Corey than Bon Iver or Fleet Foxes.

It's a novel idea which will no doubt be met with wild adoration or confusion and disdain. In a lot of ways both sides don't succeed to the same degree as when they are apart. Yet Panopticon, who is assuredly one of the most important voices in American metal, deserves unyielding praise for such a gutsy disintegration of his brand. After all, black metal is easy. Rinsing and repeating 30 year old tropes has been working, and working quite well. Instead of leaning on said tropes, as well as his achievements, Panopticon has deconstructed his decade spanning identity into something unexpected.

The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness, with its large scale changes, uneven tone, and jarring transition still manages to impress despite the internal conflict within. The uncompromising folk-black metal side is polished and refined, albeit with a little less character, while the rustic folk side is wonderfully eerie, even if a little aimless. Regardless of the trade offs made in order for such an album to work, The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness will stand as one of 2018’s most unique and fully realized metal records.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Marehelm
April 9th 2018


703 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh yes

Marehelm
April 9th 2018


703 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"It's a novel idea which will no doubt be meant with wild adoration or confusion and disdain"



You mean "met"? Otherwise awesome review!

TheSpirit
Contributing Reviewer
April 9th 2018


24491 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Nice! I was working on something for this but guess I didn't get it out fast enough.



Couldn't agree more w/how sincere the whole thing feels. I know it's been done before, but he really creates black metal w/heart.



To me, the was the most impactful album he's done since Collapse and probably his best collision of black metal and folk.

Digging: Cradle of Filth - Midian

luci
April 9th 2018


10371 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"both sides don't succeed to the same degree as when they are apart"

yep, I like how you phrased that. best to act like he simultaneously dropped two albums, the connection isn't really there

Pho3nix
April 9th 2018


558 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thank you for the review!



yet to spin this, and to my luck the Spotify version is in two parts... thinking of buying it off of Bandcamp instead tbh

dimsim3478
April 9th 2018


8023 Comments


@Xeno when you use the word "disparaging" in the review do you mean "disparate"

Digging: The Collectors (JP) - YOUNG MAN ROCK

Essence
April 9th 2018


6240 Comments


what dimsim said

just take like 5 seconds to proofread your reviews, like how are they this sloppy this many years on

Atari
Staff Reviewer
April 9th 2018


23933 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good shit Xeno

ZippaThaRippa
April 9th 2018


10466 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Didn't think it was anywhere close to having the emotion of Autumn Eternal. Just an okay album. Could take or leave the country-folk half. Didn't do anything for me.

SgtShock
April 9th 2018


792 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Still digesting this one. You hit the nail on the head when taking about how genuine this band sounds. So much of the instrumentation sounds like it's straight from the heart

Dedes
April 9th 2018


6023 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This could honestly be a 5 over time. It feels like the first part of this album shows a much angrier, bitter Austin Lunn while the folk side is him, at home with nature, even if theres a sense of sadness that drips from his vocals. I love that both albums, while disconnected, feel like a very natural progression from his last album. This thing is just goddamn incredible.

Essence
April 9th 2018


6240 Comments


couldn't agree more

deeplydisturbd
April 9th 2018


59 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

dafuq this is friggin amazing

Cryptkeeper
April 9th 2018


1888 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

No idea there was a new Panopticon album on the way, hyped as fuck

Pho3nix
April 9th 2018


558 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

First part in, and this is already heaps better than Autumn Aurora - I can see this being a classic for me that I'll return to often

Makemebad35
April 9th 2018


878 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

A few songs in and it's pretty damn good.

Casavir
April 9th 2018


2480 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

First Panopticon album I've ever listened to now that I've started. I'm almost at the end of part 1 and it's pretty good. Can't wait to see what part 2 will bring.

Digging: Secrecy - Raging Romance

ButtBoy
April 9th 2018


1285 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ok so this isn't the kind of music I'd normally jam, but the genre tags really intrigued me so I gave it a shot. Instrumentally, really cool. But I don't understand the purpose of the vocals. They are so distant that you almost can't hear them. Why doesn't the vocalist want his voice or words to be heard?

Dedes
April 9th 2018


6023 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lunn has always done rather distant vocals, and personally I think it makes his voice sound more like an echo, like he's yelling in a big deep cavern. Plus it allows dor the instruments to shine, although I do wonder if this could've been better if his vocals were slightly higher in the mix, because this is distant even by Lunns standards.

Eons
April 9th 2018


1986 Comments


I really like that album cover.



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