Genre : Folk black metal / Black metal
Release : April 19th 2014 on Bindrune Recordings.
Usually, I'm not much into splits. But when you see two of the finest american black metal bands making a collaborative album, you know you've got to check it. And so I did. More Falls of Rauros tracks were especially welcome as I completely love their last full-length. Same for Panopticon actually : Kentucky is one of those releases I keep coming back to. However, if Falls of Rauros kept the direction heard in The light that dwells in rotten wood, Panopticon returns to its basics with much rawer and somehow old school norwegian black metal, which is obviously a big influence for Austin Lunn, who spent some years in Norway. Let's dig this a little more.
There are two Falls of Rauros tracks, which open that split for roughly 19 minutes. Quickly enough, their trademark kicks in with those somehow vintage, almost rock sounding guitars. Oh sir, how good those are! Right from the beginning, the welcoming riff of 'Unavailing' grasps you and doesn't let go, as you can hear just above. Clever songwriting shines throughout both their tracks, with powerful riffs sharing the place along many acoustic parts, mostly using clean guitars. Vocals are raging, powerful, never intrusive either. And when they get clean, you really know it's american folk. Drums are balanced, moving from slow tempos to smooth, yet powerful blastbeating. Folk black metal the way it should be. If you ask me, there's not a second to throw away on their work for the split, and it probably makes me even more eager for their next full-length Believe in no coming shore, due for release in the next months.
As said before, Panopticon's side is definitely not in the same vein. Forget about the clean guitars, forget about the new trend of folk/post black metal and let's go back to the basics : Norway in the 90's. Much rawer, the last four tracks, clocking for around 24 minutes are nonetheless clever and well-executed. However, knowing Panopticon's work, and having two american folk black metal bands, I think it would have been a more coherent split if Austin tried to make something closer to his recent works and to Falls of Rauros' one. Not that the tracks are bad, even though they're not my typical kind of metal. Actually, they're even pretty good as I quickly enjoyed them while not a fan of the genre! Don't expect any kind of acoustic parts here, drums are much more blastbeating and clean vocals are not part of the deal. Yet, guitars shine with musicality all along the tracks, which actually quickly get catchy. Vocals are way more aggressive, less despaired than in the first two tracks, yet perfectly balanced in the mix. Rhythm breaks prevents from any monotony and successfully keep tracks incredibly intense.
This split is something not to miss if you enjoy both the bands, which is probably the case considering the quality of their works and the solid popularity they keep gaining. Every side is a success, but somehow sadly, it keeps the trend of many other splits with both bands making excellent works individually but probably too different ones. As it's meant to be listened to as a whole album, two different atmospheres makes you wonder about the right mood to listen to it. If it's just about listening to awesome black metal, then you're going in the right direction. However, if you're more into folkish stuff, second half may not be your cup of tea, as well as the first one if you're instead looking for something darker and punchier. Considering how fine Panopticon is when coming to american folk parts, it's with some regret that I welcome this nonetheless excellent split, yet not featuring any acoustic elements from Austin.
Personal highlight : Unavailing.
Falls of Rauros links : Facebook, Bandcamp, Bigcartel.
Panopticon links : Facebook, Bandcamp, Bigcartel.