As soon as I first heard …On The Subject of Mortality, I knew I was in for a different experience than on Panopticon’s previous efforts. A much more melodic approach is apparent as soon as the sound clips from The Seventh Seal fade out on “Living in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.” Clean guitar parts are very prevalent on this record and demonstrate the 90’s emo/post-rock influence on the album. A Lunn strikes a great balance between his harsh anarcho-pagan black metal sound with a new melodic, emotional feel. Clips from The Seventh Seal are present throughout the album that demonstrate the multiple layers of meaning and influence between the lyrics and artwork.
The focused musical ideas are one of the big strengths present on OTSOM. “Living Eulogy” is an example that explodes with catchy guitar melodies and furious blasting. The vocals are powerful and reach very high screams at points throughout the song. The clean atmosphere is kept alive throughout the next tracks in all the right spots.
The final two tracks on the record, “Seeing” and “Watching You” are prime showcases of the expansive soundscapes that conjure special atmospheres on the album. “Seeing” begins with bit-crushed, effected drum sounds, delayed guitar, and synth pads. It picks up to a melodic explosion of guitars and vocals which the listener can feel the true emotion in the music and lyrics. “Watching You” features guest vocals by Seidr vocalist Jack Hannert, who’s gut wrenching, Silencer-esque, howls are a perfect compliment to Lunn’s growls. Hannert’s screams are a chilling cap to the record that is a reflection of man’s mortality and the unknown that we face upon death.
After speaking to A Lunn about the concept of the record, I feel that it is the most emotional writing he has produced yet. I am very impressed by the character of the album overall and the dynamics. I feel Panopticon matured greatly with this release and love the fact that new ground has been covered instead of going backwards. I always loved the track “Speaking” from Panopticon’s self titled debut, and I’m glad that OTSOM takes that atmosphere and expands upon it while using all the influence covered by Collapse and the four splits that have been released. …On the Subject of Mortality is a fantastic record and I strongly recommend it for new Panopticon listeners or seasoned fans alike. Don’t let the fire burn out!