panopticon-waldgeflusterThis is the split that’s been hinted at since 2011 between one man metal act Panopticon (Austin Lunn) and Germany’s Waldgeflüster (forest whispers), aka Winterherz. The two musicians originally met in 2011, while getting drunk in Norway, parting with the famous last words “we should do a split together”. Lunn and Winterherz have previously teamed up on Waldgeflüster’s ‘Meine Fesseln’ with the Panopticon mastermind contributing mandolin, guitar solos and vocals. This split release sees two tracks from each respective artist; an original black metal song each and then an acoustic cover of one of each other’s songs. The release apparently covers the topics of friendship, nature and growing older.

Waldgeflüster’s contributions come first; ‘Der Traumschänder’ is a Cascadian soundscape of panoramic tremolo riffs drenched in breath-taking atmosphere. The vocals switch between aggressive black metal snarls and harmonious, cleanly sung passages, making for an intricate and ultimately beautiful piece of music. The cover is that of Panopticon’s ‘Norwegian Nights’ and offers up an entirely different perspective of the song. With sorrowful vocals and countrified acoustics, it could almost be a piece by Conny Ochs. This is a glimpse of Waldgeflüster that we don’t often get to see, and it’s refreshing to hear Winterherz play organically, stripped of all black metal sensibilities.

‘Håkan’s Song’ by Panopticon immediately blasts through the speakers in a frenzied assault on the senses. The squeals of the guitar and Austin’s roared vocals lend a subtle Swedish death metal influence to the music and, given the recent musical direction of Panopticon, there’s a surprising lack of banjo. This is undoubtedly the heaviest Lunn has sounded in a long time and is perhaps the better of the two heavier offerings on this split. The cover of Waldgeflüster’s ‘Trauerweide II’ begins with the opening of a beer bottle and sees the welcome return of the banjo, layered over some beautifully picked acoustic guitar. Austin Lunn’s clean vocals could very easily be the Scott Weinrich to Winterherz’s Conny Ochs, as his voice is full of depth and emotion. A country cover of a black metal song isn’t something that should work on paper, however, put into practice it sounds as though it should always have been played this way.

The artwork hand-drawn by Austin Lunn ties up this release rather nicely and adds the complementing touch to an obviously extremely personal release for both artists. While this won’t appeal to the ‘diehard kvlt eternal’ fans of black metal, it will prove to be a stunning alternative take on the genre for fans of both of these artists.

(9/10 Angela Davey)