Panopticon - Collapse
Pagan Flames / Lundr
Black Metal
4 songs (46:42)
Release year: 2009
Official Bandcamp
Reviewed by Charles
So, last week I reviewed Iskra’s Bureval and celebrated the existence of Red/Anarchist Black Metal (RABM), albeit in reference to an album that didn’t take my breath away. It had visceral appeal as a black-mimicking punk record, but it didn’t really capture the real musical essence of black metal as I see it. But here we have the real deal: this- in parts at least- is low-fi and depressive black metal with an atmosphere that drips with sour minimalism and despondency. But rather than pointless, introspective faux-misanthropy, this is has a cynical radical message, and a distinct open-mindedness that ends up subverting that musical template.

The first track opens with a barrage of cable news samples, to which the music is initially an accompaniment rather than the other way around, and in this sense it almost reminds me of a Public Enemy track in its sarcastic collage of a media so divorced from reality. The very first thing you hear is nativist-in-chief Lou Dobbs’s stupid voice, articulately explaining on primetime CNN George W’s secret plot to destroy the USA through the encouragement of immigration. Even better, this is closely followed by none other than crown prince of parallel universe conspiratorialism, Glenn Beck, here captured in his inspirational War Room/Doom Bunker monologue. Forget Satan, this is the soundtrack to the sodding apocalypse. Underneath, a funereal clean guitar line wittles out a despondently minimalist chord progression, turning into a bleedingly raw, miasma of clattering black metal that overwhelms the guest speakers, silencing them.

It often sounds amateurish, but this is part of its appeal. It seems cobbled together with primitive tools but great care, like the work of a survivalist commune in a wasteland straight out of The Road. This makes it the perfect accompaniment to the aforementioned samples’ overwhelming paranoia. In this sense there’s nothing appropriate than its sudden segue into hippyish acoustic twanging, that adjoins the end of The Death of Baldur… and Aptrgangr. Whilst Beck and Dobbs bring fear to a happy place, so this brings warm acoustic fuzziness to an imperiously hostile musical environment.

So these disparate elements- acoustic diversions, sarcastic samples- become an integral part of Collapse’s very long songs, giving the album a meandering, eclectic feel. This is at its rustic best with the Nile-ish tonality of the acoustic interlude to Merkstave, replete with wind instrument jamming and tambourine jangling- abruptly interrupted by what sounds like someone blowing into a shell. Then there are the are long, open spaces of rattling, minimalist black metal, with the guitar crackling away fuzzily and the drums sounding like wooden spoons banging on a kitchen table. Sometimes plaintive tunes do force their way through these metal parts, as with the opening to Merkstave. But it is the many diversions that really give this its character.

Collapse is difficult to get into, partly because so much of its black metal elements sound so “rustic” and partly because its wide-ranging ideas are strung together with little concern for packageable songs. But it is ultimately rewarding because its ever-shifting identity takes the ideas of projects such as Burzum, soaks up their aura, and then discards them in a haze of hippyish disinterest before returning to them. But in the album’s juxtapositions, we get a real sense of the post-apocalyptic that a lot of bands cannot match.

Killing Songs :
Merkstave
Charles quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Panopticon that we have reviewed:
Panopticon - The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Panopticon - Autumn Eternal reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Panopticon - Roads to the North reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Panopticon - Kentucky reviewed by Koeppe and quoted 75 / 100
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