Falls of Rauros / Panopticon, self-titled split, Bindrune Recordings, vinyl BR020 (2014)
The background to this split album is that A Lunn of Panopticon and the members of Fall of Rauros had spent time in Norway together for various reasons: among other things, Lunn was studying zymurgy (the science of fermentation) as preparation for opening his brewery in Minnesota. The album is inspired by the bands’ visit to Norway and the Norwegian countryside, and their love of Norwegian black metal.
Fall of Rauros contribute two tracks in a melancholic, almost post-metal vein. “Unavailing” is the major track at nearly 12 minutes in length and an epic piece it is too with rapid-fire tremolo guitar and equally hurried percussion alternating with passages of more thoughtful and very insular melodic acoustic guitar melodies. The thin screechy vocals are something of a let-down here as their limited range fails to match the scope and depth of the meandering guitar music. The later part of the track becomes infused with deep dreamy atmosphere and is a deeply intense passage. “The Purity of Isolation” is a calm remedy of almost country or folk post-rock to the intensity of its long sibling and its lyrics suggest a post-apocalyptic healing for humanity through deep contact with and absorption into nature. Here are hope and optimism for a brighter future in which humans accept their place in the natural order of the cosmos, learn true humility and give up their former arrogance and self-destructive illusions.
Panopticon changes musical direction in favour of a more strictly old-school style of raw and furious, all-out attacking black metal with four tracks. “Through Mountains I wander this Evening” practically erases all memory of the previous band’s music with roaring guitars, clattering drums and a seething, menacing vocal all prowling and charging continuously. Having taken total control of your attention, Lunn relaxes a little on the next track with a slower pace and a darkly bleak and mournful ambience with droplets of bluesy raindrop guitar tones among the distorted guitars. After what seems like a (deliberate) near-collapse in the middle of the song, Lunn rallies with a burst of frenzied tom-tom battery and squalling guitar buzz.
“Gods of Flame” is a very war-like track, surprisingly close in parts to commercial melodic heavy metal in the sedate pace and in structure with an emphasis rhythm guitar riffs and melodies. A piano background ambience in the slower sections provides a clean-toned contrast with the constant buzz. There seems to be a strong Burzum influence on the riff loops and guitar trills in the last track “One Cold Night” which is a deeply cold and forbidding conclusion to the album.
Both acts on the split strive to do their utmost but for me Panopticon win out easily for changing its style to a straightforward Norwegian-inspired BM one with none of the bluegrass or other country / folk music elements from previous albums like “Kentucky”. This is quite unexpected for an act of its current stature and with several releases under its belt. Each song in Panopticon’s arsenal is different from the last with parts of “Gods of Flame” not at all much like what I would have expected from Lunn. Falls of Rauros do a good job with their two songs but the one thing that makes their music less than perfect is the vocal: it’s too thin and lacking in variety and range to do justice to their music. Here’s hoping that both bands have gained much from this collaboration in the way of pleasure and new insights about their own music and the other’s music.
Contact: Bindrune Recordings