Falls of Rauros & Panopticon – Split 12″

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Both Falls of Rauros and Panopticon are United States black metal-ish
bands who have collaborated for this powerful 12" split release.
Panopticon (actually a solo project) is openly anarchistic in the real
sense of the term, opposing both the state and capitalism. While I’m not
quite so certain about Falls of Rauros, looking at the lyrics they seem to share a common distaste/bitterness for modern consumerist,
capitalist society and they both seem to express a preference for the
natural world over an ultimately coercive and destructive human one.
These political and environmental views certainly seems to fuel the
sound of the music they create. The two artists apparently spent some
time together in Norway, and such an environment that has inspired so
many Norwegian black metal bands like Burzum and Gorgoroth to create
such dark, atmospheric, and compelling music, has clearly had an effect
on them.

Falls of Rauros’ side:

  1. ‘Unavailing’ (11:53)
  2. The Purity of Isolation’ (06:45)

This is actually the first new material from Falls of Rauros since their
last full-length album in 2011, so in a sense there’s some pressure on
them to not let people down, and they certainly don’t. ‘Unavailing’ is a
wonderful exposition in atmospheric black metal, featuring numerous
beautiful, sorrowful guitar melodies soaring amongst the tasteful and
measured drumming, and a deep, earthy bass contribution to help ground
the guitars and keep them from sounding too airy. About 2 minutes
in there’s an astonishing but short guitar solo which is picked up
again later in the track which really does provoke an emotional reaction
to the music.

The second track ‘The Purity of Isolation’ begins as a
pretty big departure from the previous track, instead focusing on an
acoustic guitar and soft, chanted vocals, before introducing a few more
electrified melodies and black metal screams instead of singing, but
never leaving the folky acoustic base of the song. There is something so
utterly compelling about the mournfulness that permeates every moment
of both these tracks that one cannot help but be moved by it. One senses
at the same time a deep love for the natural world and life itself, but
also despair at the tragedy that has befallen nature at our hands.

“I can not find any beauty
in our sightless ambitions
I am through with forgiveness
for our unseeing
I will not feel any sorrow
by the crumbling of towers
raised from the earth in arrogance
Cleaving the welkin
Piercing the heavens”
Falls of Rauros – Unavailing

Even before I read the lyrics this was something I had a real sense of,
drawing from what little knowledge of the political backgrounds of these
two artists that I had, from the album cover, the track titles, and the
kinds of feelings they were eliciting from me, but if you do read the
lyrics (you can do so here)
I would argue their sound and their message work in tandem,
complementing each other and expressing more viscerally the concepts
they wanted to communicate. At times reminding me of Alcest’s second
album ‘Écailles de lune’ FoR’s side of the split impressed me greatly
and as soon as I publish this review I’m off to go have a listen to more
of their music.

Panopticon’s side

  1. ‘Through Mountains I Wander This Evening’ (4:33)
  2. ‘Can You Loan Me a Raven?’ (7:29)
  3. ‘Gods of Flame’ (4:26)
  4. ‘One Cold Night’ (7:56)

Panopticon’s side of the split is a much more straightforward affair
though on a similar level of quality. Sole band member A. Lunn was
clearly a lot more influneced by traditional Norwegian black metal than
his FoR counterparts. Opening track ‘Through Mountains I Wander This
Evening’  has a pretty traditional verse-chorus song structure and I really enjoy the ‘chorus’ part of this song. The band take a moment away from
the blastbeats and noise to focus on an Agalloch-ian tremolo-picked
guitar chord and settle into a more rhythmic drum pattern before leaping
straight back into the fray. ‘Can You Loan Me a Raven?’ is a much more
experimental piece of music. Though still remaining strictly within the
boundaries of black metal, it seems to explore the effects that an
almost hypnotic sense of repetition can achieve, in a very Svartidaudi/Wormlust-ian way, with a slow, droning pace, audible and
enjoyable bass, massive sections of noise, static and guitar feedback
before the drums kick back in and these wonderfully dark guitar notes
are introduced that are ingenious in their simplicity and the sort of
dark atmosphere they help further intensify.

Gods of Flame is more closely aligned with the opening track opting for a
more straightforward Norwegian black metal sound with all the
essentials you might expect with layers of atmosphere and a great raw
sound, as well as a really evil passage just before 3 minutes in. The
final track ‘One Cold Night’ is the one that made the greatest
impression on me, however. The song starts slow and the opening guitar
riff is utterly dark and entrancing, probably my favourite on the entire
split. The introduction of the muffled black metal snarls muffled in
the distance with the introduction of quiet but reverb-heavy guitars
layered on top of the whole thing heavily reminds me of the sort
of thing Burzum might have written for, say, Dunkelheit. Moments of
frenzy with blastbeats and hectic riffs, complimented by identical bass,
break up the slow pace of much of the song before slowly returning to
the depths, only to be summoned forth once more to tear off what is left
of your face by the end of this split.

This is definitely among the best splits I have had the pleasure of
listening to. Falls of Rauros present a compelling and emotionally
resonant atmospheric and melancholic take on black metal while
Panopticon opt for an equally atmospheric take but with greater emphasis
on rawness and influence from such Norwegian greats as Gorgoroth and
Burzum. The album artwork (high-res version here)
is also fantastic in my opinion, perfectly epitomising the kind of
scenery brought to mind by these two talented bands. Highly recommended
if you’re at all a fan of black metal.

Falls of Rauros & Panopticon – Split 12" is available May 3, 2014 through Bandcamp (FoR, Panopticon) or on vinyl through Bindrune Recordings

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