Panopticon is a one man metal band project created by Louisville, Kentucky native Austin Lunn. What started as an studio only project with Lunn writing and performing all the parts it has since expanded to include a lineup for musicians for live performances. While Panopticon can fall under the sub genre of metal as atmospheric black metal. It features many different elements music, such as, bluegrass and folk. But do not let those elements deceive you, Panopticon is still heavy and dark. Incorporating distorted guitars and rapid drumming, along with banjos, fiddles, Bella’s, synthesizers and acoustic guitars.
The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness (I&II) is the newest addition to Panopticon’s discography and is the most poignant albums to date by the one man metal band. Lunn released this statement when the albums were released, “Please don’t listen to the albums on your laptop speakers, it will sound like shit. Give it a shot on a long hike or by a fire with headphones.“ This statement has never been truer. The albums evokes themes of nature of the solitude and beauty, yet harshness that nature encompasses. Lunn has a way of transporting listeners into this world he has created through music. While Scars can be appreciated in many way, this is the biggest draw of the album. Lunn has a love of nature. It has always been apparent in his past projects with Panopticon, but Scars is a brilliant means of expressing the beauty of nature.
The opening track ‘Watch the Lights Fades” is an acoustic instrumental with the progression of an acoustic guitar, the whistling over the sound of crackling fire. Although the acoustics may not always been present, even in the heaviest songs, there is a meditative bliss that works its way throughout the albums. You feel as though you have been immersed into this tranquil state that Lunn seems to find in nature.
Scars is also Lunn’s most captivating projects with the range of instrumentation and compositions. In the past Lunn has blended genres together, Scars does this, but in a different sort of fashion. The first half of the albums is atmospheric black metal that is synonymous with Lunn. Heavy drum work and somber guitar melodies create a melancholy feeling.
“En hvit ravns død” For example, has a multiple of drum progressions with cold guitar riffs. When Lunn’s vocals hit they a blended sounded that compliments the instrumentals, but also adds a haunting melody. Towards the half way point, the heavier instrumentals leaves and makes way for a chilling string progression. By the end of the track all these elements come together in perfect harmony.
Lunn features few guests, on other projects, but on Scars he is responsible for all the instrumentation on the record. To give you an idea of how skilled Lunn’s is, here is a list detailing all of his roles: guitars (acoustic, electric, baritone acoustic, resonator, square neck resonator) Bass (acoustic, 4 and 8 string electric) 5 string banjo, lap steel, drums and percussion, keys, mandolin, harmonica, sung and screamed voice, choirs, accordion and orchestra bells and software instruments.
“Blåtimen” is another track that blends the harsh sounds of black metal and the blissful melody that you come across when listening to the albums in its entirety. Lunn balances his use of emotions, the sounds of nature, and structure throughout the albums. There is never a moment where the compositions become repetitive or monotonous. Even in the song“The Singing Wilderness” while the arrangement may stay the same, the lightning speeds of the track is no restrained.
In the second half of Scars, Panopticon/Lunn shares his love of folk and Americana music through his own music as seen in tracks like “The Moss Beneath the Snow” embodies the melancholy sound of folk with the power and tranquility of atmospheric black metal. Even “The Wandering Ghost” has a playful combination of string with Lunn’s hoarse like folk singing voice.
The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness in both part I and II are some of the best works that Lunn has released and some of the best projects in general released in recent year. With a genre like metal that has so many sub-genres and so many moving parts its really difficult to pinpoint a theme in metal. Yet the beauty of these two records is that Lunn continues to captivate our senses. Not only transporting listeners to other places, but enhancing that feeling, not through lyrics, but it the total composition. Lunn has simply created great records.