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A perfected sound - 96%

ColoursOfTheSun_8, June 28th, 2020

Autumn Eternal is the final album in the trilogy with Kentucky and Roads to the North both being solid outputs. The intro track is mostly just acoustic guitars and banjos with a kind of Americana and bluegrass sound which has become a staple of Panopticon’s sound, this leads into the first song 'Into the North Woods' which I'm guessing the title is a nod back to the previous album 'Roads to the North' and represents Lunn relocating from Kentucky to Minnesota. The next three songs are easily some of the best tracks in his discography; each track has the trademark complexity that is standard in his work but while the songs have a reasonably mid-paced tempo it can easily erupt into blazing guitar solos and intense drum work on songs such as ‘Oaks Ablaze’. Personally the title track is my favourite of the album; the first half is full of mid-tempo guitar melodies leading into a short shoegazy, bass heavy interlude before cutting back into the metal which uses some guitar soloing to build up the tensions for the incredible and glorious final minutes. Although the bluegrass is mostly non-existent on this record, Lunn instead uses synths to add another layer to the music, this definitely isn’t a symphonic black metal album but instead he uses the synth at just the right moments to help the bigger climactic moments and to keep the triumphant atmosphere. Shoegazy elements that were more common on the previous album are also present on later tracks and also do a good job of keeping the listener engaged in the music. The ending of ‘Into the North Woods’ also uses some bells which add an almost triumphant sound to the music, possibly marking the arrival into Minnesota?

‘Sleep to the Sounds of Waves Crashing’ has some second wave style, tremolo riffing which results in a dark, frantic and aggressive sound when compared to the rest of the album and is more similar to the material from the previous album; unfortunately Lunn misses the mark here as it can sound slightly repetitive which although repetition is common in lots of black metal it feels out of place on a Panopticon album. The melancholic synth section on the second half offers a little break in the album whilst slowly building back up into the end of the song. ‘Pale Ghosts’ is a great track that I’m never too sure to take the song, the main riff sounds blissful and majestic yet at the same time feels slightly forlorn. Clean vocals and shoegaze elements are featured on the ‘Pale Ghosts’ and the next track ‘A Superior Lament’ which has some doom-like riffing and some outstanding guitar solos that keeps the album sounding fresh. The final track is an instrumental which I’m usually not a fan of but in this case I think the track is incredible as even without vocals it’s able to keep the emotional feel of the other songs and actually rounds off this album very well. Although there are no lyrics published for this album there is such a deep array of emotions presented by the haunting vocals, hypnotic guitars and unrelenting drumming. Lunn really perfected his song writing and song structures in this record as the songs organically flow into moments of intensity and then slower calming passages, aside from one track the album isn’t boring and holds your attention till the last second.

The album cover is a photo which Lunn took while in Norway and adds to the atmosphere of the album. The mixing and recording is well balanced and maintains a strong atmosphere without relying on low quality production like many black metal bands do. Although there isn’t the wide use of instruments that feature on Kentucky and the aggression of Roads to the North is limited to only one song, Autumn Eternal has a perfected sound that is able to sound glorious and triumphant while able to keep a dark and moody presence within each track, even with a more streamlined use of instruments Panopticon has a unique sound that really sets itself above most other bands in the genre. The only reason I don’t give this album a 100% is the slightly repetitive riffs in parts of ‘Sleep to the Sounds of Waves Crashing’ which is still only a few minutes of an hour long album. Although all the songs are incredible and I would definitely recommend the album to anyone, highlights have to be ‘Autumn Eternal’ and ‘A Superior Lament’.