There’s nothing else in the world that sounds like the music of Panopticon, the seven-year-old project of Louisville, Kentucky’s Austin “Lundr” Lunn (formerly of Anagnorisis, who released one of last year’s best metal albums). In his most striking work — most notably Panopticon’s excellent 2012 LP, Kentucky, as well as the band’s forthcoming Roads To The North — Lunn plays a variation of American atmospheric black metal infused with generous elements of Appalachian folk, somehow finding a place where all those seemingly disparate musical worlds coexist organically, as if black metal had always included instruments like banjo and Native American flute. (In fairness, some black metal does include banjo and Native American flute, but Panopticon uses those tools to an entirely different effect.) Lunn is credited with playing both those instruments on Roads To The North, along with drums, guitar, bass, vocals, mandolin, resonator guitar, dobro, and keyboards. He’s also responsible for “samples, recording, art, lyrics, and songs,” but still found room to include a host of collaborators here, including members of bands such as Celestiial, Obsequiae, and Altar Of Plagues, among others — plus “additional keys, orchestral arrangement, percussion, engineering, and producing” from the tireless Colin Marston, of Krallice/Gorguts/Dysrhythmia/Behold The Arctopus, who’s been involved in like half the interesting metal albums released over the past three years. Still, for all its many component pieces, Roads To The North never feels jumbled or overstuffed — instead, it feels like the natural result of a complicated evolutionary process. Lunn is one of the few genuine visionaries in American black metal — it’s easy to imagine a near-future in which he’s credited with spawning numerous sub-subgenres — and Roads To The North might be the most impressive product of his vision yet. We’ve got Roads To The North’s endlessly textured, climactic closing number, “Chase The Grain,” for you to spin today, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to do just that.
Roads To The North is out 8/1 via Bindrune/Nordvis.