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Lost, amid the Oaks Ablaze - 97%

Bach_in_Black, October 19th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Bindrune Recordings (Digipak)

I write this on a cold, rainy October night in Minnesota. I can't help but feel as if I have a special connection with this album, considering many of Austin Lunn's soundscapes play upon the themes of this great state I live in. The chilling sounds of a lone loon haunt the first moments of this album giving way to a beautiful folk-inspired instrumental piece that evokes visions leaves softly falling to the ground in a peaceful forest. This is truly the most peaceful moment on the album, and I am mesmerized by the melancholic folk tune that is composed primarily of a fiddle, slide & acoustic guitar. I absolutely adore the Appalachian (or even just American folk) influences that Lunn incorporates in so much of his music.

From this point on in the album, we are taken into the depths of the north woods - never really to return, and the listener is lost in a true eternal autumn. The album becomes relentless with very melodic, jagged guitar work dispersed throughout. "Into the North Woods" and "Autumn Eternal" contain a great amount of epic and triumphant guitar leads that creates a very visceral atmosphere. Most of this is definitely black metal, however I also hear some post-metal vibes in the guitar tones throughout as well. The track "Pale Ghosts" has an absolutely beautiful ending with a guitar pattern that shimmers into the night.

The vocals in this album are set in the backdrop. Lunn's vocals seem to be forlorn and sometimes even distant in the mix of sound. In fact, I can never really understand what Lunn is actually saying in these songs. This really doesn't diminish the album - in fact, I think it adds to the wild atmosphere that is being curated. It also allows the absolutely incredible guitar work and drumming take the spotlight.

Speaking of drumming, if there was one truly spectacular aspect from the musicality of this album, it would have to be just that. Austin Lunn is an absolute monster on the drum set throughout the entire album. Whether we are talking black metal blast beats, or a more clean cut driving rythm, I find the drumming to be very raw and inspiring. My favorite track on the album is "A Superior Lament". The drumming carries this 11 minute song at a galloping pace and then explodes into a burst of emotions towards the end. I can't get enough of those damn drums.

This album is truly something special. I've listened to it countless times while hiking, sitting on a bus, and even while at work. It never fails to transport me straight into the wilderness - exactly where I want to be. This album truly takes me to a very nostalgic place where I am surrounded by beautiful views, dense forests, and trees ablaze with the colors of fall. It's filled with color, emotion, passion, and wonder. It truly embodies what I love about metal, and music in general. Thank you, Austin Lunn, for creating this masterpiece.

Cascades of autumn rain - 98%

cestensrud, August 21st, 2017
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Bindrune Recordings (Digipak)

After the release of Roads to the North in August of 2014, one wonders where Panopticon might have gone next. Would the next release up the bluegrass or shoegaze elements of Roads even further? Would Austin Lunn foray back into the political realm lyrically? Not being one to travel the same road twice, Lunn abandoned most of the folk elements of previous releases, but did not sacrifice any of the melodies or intensity. Autumn Eternal is as layered as Roads, but with a different sort of dark energy pervading throughout the album. This darkness doesn't manifest itself in what you might hear on a classic black metal album, but the sort of nature-inspired melancholy that bands like Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room have mastered. This slight shift in direction results in a beautifully triumphant album that serves as a perfect conclusion to the trilogy started by 2012's Kentucky.

The only trace of real folk present on the album comes in the form of it's first track, the beautiful "Tamarack's Gold Returns". The call of a loon preceding a soft guitar melody lets the listener know that Lunn's folk roots are certainly not left behind, but are merely a gateway to what is laid out on Autumn Eternal. As "Tamarack's" fades into the sounds of a stream, Lunn brings out the metal all guns blazing with "Into the North Woods". On this track and the title track following it, a noted reservedness in the intensity of drumming is found compared to the pervasive blasts of Roads and Kentucky. Many of the drum patterns found on this album tend to follow a more traditional hard rock or metal beat style, but this serves the music well in downplaying the more progressive nature of the songwriting found on Roads. This reservedness does pave the way for moments of pure percussive intensity, such as the final minutes of "Autumn Eternal" or the more traditional black metal opening of "Sleep to the Sound of the Waves Crashing".

Lunn's guitar playing on Autumn Eternal ditches the furious sweeps and melodeath riffing of Roads, but none of the beautiful melody. More time is spent on developing single riffs over the course of a song as opposed to including multiple riff sections. The album takes on much more a post-metal sense in this way, especially in the closing track "The Wind's Farewell". A single melody is built and expanded on throughout the entire song, leading to a triumphant crescendo that concludes the album.

The melancholic atmosphere of this album owes a great deal to Colin Marston, once again in charge of all mixing and mastering. Whether it is the soft sections such as the intro track and the clean vocal section of "A Superior Lament" or the blackened intensity of "Pale Ghosts", no sound range is left unfilled, proving essential in developing the atmosphere of autumn. The carefully placed layers of complex guitar melodies, blast beats, thudding bass drum, and keyboards that form the audioscape of this album bring to mind images of a cascading waterfall, leading down to a furious plunge pool.

With Autumn Eternal Austin Lunn has successfully concluded what will hopefully be regarded as one of the best string of albums in the history of metal. A reflection of the path that brought him from Kentucky to Norway to Minnesota, and a testament to those who helped him along the way. This is a triumphant, beautifully melancholy hour of deeply personal music by an artist that has expanded the breadth of black metal further than any artist in recent memory.

Just Listen - 90%

flightoficarus86, November 20th, 2015

"Tamaracks Gold Returns" is a lovely piece filled with banjo fiddles and acoustic guitar. So much so that I honestly would not have minded Austin going full instrumental folk on us. It's definitely in my list of top songs for the year right alongside all of the most grim and brutal stuff to cross my path. In a word, stunning. And on an emotional level, a perfect introduction for what is in store.

There are still some of these elements to be found in the more traditional post black majority of the album. Single "Into the Northern Woods" has more emotive strings to dish out, just awash in layers of squealing guitar melodies and throaty howls. I must say, the hooks can be quite splendid on their own. Some of these leads definitely pulled at my heartstrings and showed a fine ear for composition. I hear improvements from the last album in the blending of the guitar tone into the lush production, and this single's blazing solo reaches cathartic peaks when joined with the lofty choir synths, bells, and marching band drums.

I was more than a little worried upon hearing that overall the folk elements had been pulled back. I feared being treated to a more generic sound all too many groups are utilizing these days. Fortunately, the changes are a shift rather than a removal. Instead of a sticking with a sound Austin has become quite comfortable with in the charming instrumentation raised in the south, he seems to be treading new territories with the aforementioned use of nods to other genres and influences. Oddly, as I listen I contemplate the ever-evolving influences of the Beatles from boy band darlings, to moody rockers, to psychedelic, sitar-toting hippies. Austin may be far from any if those things, but the parallel in maturation is no less applicable.

Speaking of maturation, this album strikes me as the work of someone with changing sensibilities and priorities. As a man raising my own family and learning more every day about personal growth and change from career to home life, not only can I respect that, I connect with it. It resonates. And that's really what good music does. What makes a great release something you keep in the daily rotation is whether or not it means something to you; and something so objective is the most difficult (impossible?) thing to quantify.

It's difficult to distill something so raw and pure into droplets of information without losing the overall purpose. Just listen to the sorrowful riffs and engulfing atmosphere of "Oaks Ablaze." Somewhere in these woods, as the leaves change color, but never quite descend, you'll catch a glimpse of true passion. The essence of songwriting. The foundation that is so often missed by an otherwise technically proficient major release. That indescribable feeling you get when something just seems off. You can almost reach out and touch it in the haunting gaps of "Sleep to the Sounds of Waves Crashing" between the firey snare drums, deathy vocals, and incredibly fast bass work. That's not even mentioning the Gothenburgian guitar build or spot-on string interlude.

Review Courtesy of MetalTrenches.com