Looking at this week’s weather where I live, it’s going to be the meeting of two great forces. At the start and end of the week, it’s going to be nice and warm, perfect spring weather with a few storms thrown in for good measure. Middle of the week? Snow. Awesome. Good thing I put all the screens in the windows for the season change.
On that note, today’s topic is similar to two great weather fronts coming together to create a chaotic whirlwind of meteorological madness. On one hand, we have Maine-based black metal Falls of Rauros who weave in folk elements into their expansive sound. On the other, we have Panopticon, the Austin Lunn-led, one-man black metal force who we have covered often at this site. The bands do have some commonalities musically, but there’s definitely a difference between the two sides that you can hear when their music is lined side by side like it is here. This six-song split recording (two tracks from Rauros, four from Panopticon) also has a more direct connect to the weather comparison I made earlier, as the Rauros selections feel perfect for the young spring, as rains will flood the grounds, and we’ll spend more time in nature. As for Panopticon’s selections, with Lunn tipping his cap to the Nordic second wave of black metal, his tracks are frostier, colder, and like they were born in a blizzard.
Falls of Rauros have been evolving for some time now, with each recording finding the four-piece group expanding their black metal and folk influences and growing more and more comfortable in their threads. “The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood” was a revelation for the band (it originally was released in 2011 and was re-released in 2013), picking up the intensity and imagination they showed on 2008’s excellent “Hail Wind and Hewn Oak,” a record that I still visit a lot to this day. The collection of artists including shadowy, singularly named members, show that their progress is just going to continue, if these two tracks are any evidence, and their next full-length record deserves to be one of the most anticipated of whatever timeframe it is released.
Their portion kicks off with “Unavailing,” an 11:53 epic that is sprawling and breathtaking. The opening strains are atmospheric, and the guitars hold just a hint of country before the sparks fly and the volume builds. Harsh shrieks erupt, guitars start spitting fire, and the song turns into a melodic, even breezy track, with acoustic guitars siding in, blending, and creating a pretty neat texture. As the song reaches its conclusion the screams return, the music cascades down, and the final moments are gazey and dreamy. “The Purity of Isolation” is their second and final track, with more acoustics and even some clean singing. The folk strains build, blending into more volcanic madness with vicious growls, heart-wrenching melodies, and sweeping chaos, with an array of colors that blind you. As the song reaches its conclusion, it begins to let loose its chokehold ever so slowly, letting air back into your lungs and drowning out into the night. These songs are perfect for the evolution of spring, especially when there’s a relentless thunderstorm around the corner waiting to black out your sunshine.
Lunn always seems to have several irons in the fire, be it with Panopticon or his other projects such as Seidr and Kolga, and he appears to have no shortage of inspiration or unique ideas, be that Kentucky-based coal workers or the failure of social services in his hometown. Under the Panopticon banner, Lunn has remained as busy and prolific as any other artists out there, putting our regular full-length albums as well as a ton of splits such as this one, with artists ranging from Skagos to Lake of Blood to Vestiges. You’d think creating this much music would spread an artist thin, but Lunn has shown no signs of running on empty (or even three-quarters of a tank for that matter). The four tracks on this recording are as explosive and menacing as anything else in his catalog. That should scare you.
Panopticon’s portion begins with “Through the Mountains I Wander This Evening,” a song that might immediately give you Nordic thoughts simply from the title but certainly reinforces those ideas when you hear Lunn’s harsh growls, the speedy, savage riffs, and dark and menacing playing that sounds like it emanated from a filthy dungeon somewhere. The guitar work is thick and entrancing, something that occurs quite a bit on these four songs, and this track ends suddenly, like it hit a wall and disintegrated. The tremendously titled “Can You Loan Me a Raven?” follows, and luckily he doesn’t really need said bird in order to send his black message. The guitars are dizzying and bathed in feedback, the melodies sound watery and dark, and eventually everything blows up into blast beats and terrifying shrieks. “Gods of Flames” is filthy and gruff, with the vocals barked through a mangled throat, lightning-fast guitars pounding, and unforgiving punishment meted out. Closer “One Cold Night” is perfectly titled, as the guitars are frozen, and the noise that is draped over the sound is like a heavy frost. The growls are scary and direct, though they sound like they’re delivered from an underground cell, the music can be enrapturing and cause you to stare a million feet in front of you, and the final moments are overcome by static, with piercing noises digging into your heart and mind.
This split effort is a great meeting of the minds, two entities that create black sounds that are their very own but certainly overlap into each other’s worlds. You’ll freeze, you’ll thaw, and you’ll be devastated completely by these two bands. If you’re new to one or both, it’s a fine introduction to what each does so well. But if you’ve been along for the rides with either one, this is a great way to show you how each band has expanded their mission and are ready to take you on new adventures in the future.
For more on Falls of Rauros, go here: http://www.fallsofrauros.blogspot.com/
For more on Panopticon, go here: http://thetruepanopticon.bandcamp.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro
For more on the label, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/