PanoopticonThe soundscape that is modern American metal has never sounded better, and it’s visionaries such as Austin Lunn that we have to thank for this. Less than a year since the masterpiece that was ‘Roads to the North’ was released and after contributing to Saor’s ‘Aura’, Lunn has returned with Panopticon’s seventh full length album ‘Autumn Eternal’.

This record will be a welcome return for those that enjoyed the unique bluegrass infused black metal that featured so heavily on ‘Roads to the North’ – there’s more of this, but with new life breathed into it with cleaner song writing and slicker melodic passages. The pristine production quality is one of the first things to jump out upon pressing play – whereas ‘Roads…’ encompassed the scratchy lo-fi elements of 90s second wave black metal, its follow up is ultimately more seamless, allowing for a smoother transition between the earthy folk and frantic passages.

Lunn has developed in leaps and bounds as a songwriter too; banjos and images of West Country living integrate naturally into the longer numbers, rather than being given their own standalone tracks (the first song being the exception to this rule). The ability to marry together two genres that are so far apart on the musical spectrum showcases real musical talent; Lunn is obviously flexing his song writing muscles and this record has really helped him to find his stride.

There are a few songs that feel like they’re just there as fat to be stripped away, however, the likes of ‘Into The North Woods’ and ‘Pale Ghosts’ keep things interesting with a fusion of raw aggression and simple melodies. There’s a heavy influence of post rock, however, the guitars do all the work without the unnecessary introduction of synths and keyboards. Panopticon is proving to be a pioneer project of contemporary black metal and, with Austin Lunn at the helm, the possibilities seem limitless.

(8/10 Angela Davey)