Sunday, November 6, 2011
Panopticon - "Social Disservices" (2011) [Flenser Records]
And that was just school. Outside of school my friend and I were harassed to no end by police officers, ignorant adults, and peers. Life was pretty awful from ages fourteen to sixteen, but, in reality, it's because these social services had betrayed me, a teenager who was just looking for a voice. Though this review is sort of turning into a bit of a sob-fest, and, sure, I was one of those standard "rebellious" teens, but I was misrepresented by those services set to help guide me to become a functioning member of society, and, from what I can tell from the raw, emotional case set forth by musician Austin Lunn, these services' disgust for misfits is rampant.
From its inception in 2007, Kentucky-based one-man band Panopticon has been one of the forerunners in American black metal. A vehicle for sole musician Austin Lunn's rage and passion, we've seen Panopticon cover topics such as veganism, the Haymarket Square incident, paganism, feminism, and all sorts of hot-button, left-wing, modern American "black metal" topics. To be completely honest, I must say that these themes never really hit close to home, appealing more to the dreadlocked, "crusty" side of black metal, but new effort Social Disservices is definitely a much more personal, meaningful journey into Austin Lunn's personal morality. Austin was betrayed by society, and he is ready to speak.
Along with being Lunn's most personal, introspective, offering, Social Disservices is by far his tightest and most memorable performance under the name Panopticon. Alternating between raging, terrifying bouts of raw, aggressive black metal and melodic, profound, post-rock influenced climaxes. You will hear lengthy samples of crying children, which were actually intended to be even longer before the label suggested they be shortened, harsh dissonance, and ferocious roars, luring the listener to a dark, foreboding place within themselves. Social Disservices' crushing heaviness and heart-wrenchingly beautiful melodies bring forth Panopticon's most honest and empathetic album. A chief complaint I've seen with previous Panopticon albums has dealt with mixing and performance (there are a good handful of mistakes on other releases), but with Social Disservices we see Panopticon's tightest performance, though there are still one or two "flubs," and by far the clearest recording and mixing job, with mastering done by the ever-present Colin Marston.
Instead of politics, veganism, and religion, Social Disservices is Austin Lunn speaking out against the government funded services that have failed today's youth, and, goddammit, his voice will be heard with this record. As Panopticon's most aggressive and personal album, Social Disservices will speak to a much wider demographic...which is definitely a good thing. As for me? I, like many others, have survived without the personal guidance of public school and defense. In fact, I've recently chopped off my magnificent mane and might even be able to fit in soon enough. I guess I'm a sellout, but hey, if I can do it, then just about anyone can.
Available on CD and LP from Flenser Records.