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A good place to go after you sample Kentucky - 95%

Cassandra_Leo, April 26th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2010, 2 12" vinyls, The Flenser (Limited edition, Clear yellow with black/red splatter vinyl)

The first of (to date) four concept albums Panopticon has released, Collapse expanded the scope of the band's first album to the collapse of society itself. As an anarchist, sole band member Austin Lunn doesn't regard this as necessarily being a uniformly bad thing. One of the major themes of this album is questioning how humans would evolve and adapt to such a massive change in lifestyle.

The music, consequentially, isn't uniformly the standard blasting one would expect from a black metal release. While there is some of that, it's bookended by other elements. The opening track, "The Death of Baldr and the Coming War", starts out with an extended post-rock workout that intentionally recalls the works of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and it ends with an acoustic bluegrass section. Between these, there is the expected black metal aggression, but while the transition could be jarring in lesser hands, Lunn makes it work. "The Death of Baldr" runs for sixteen minutes and establishes the epic scope of the material Lunn is working with here.

The other tracks continue in similar vein. "Aptrgangr" again opens with a post-rock section that intentionally incorporates some just-barely-out-of-tune accompaniment that generates the intended sense of unease. "Merkstave" slows the tempo down and incorporates acoustic passages and readings from Henry David Thoreau, while the acoustic "Idavoll" closes the original album on a serene, pastoral note that implies that, while the collapse of society may be difficult for humans, we will learn and adapt.

The album has also been reissued on vinyl with a bonus track, "The Beginning of the End", which is a cover of an Amebix track featuring that band's vocalist, Rob "The Baron" Miller, as a guest. It fits perfectly with the theme of the album and is well recommended for interested fans. The vinyl has also been remastered and features substantially expanded dynamic range. The sound is a definite improvement, and I would recommend listeners upgrade from the CD to the vinyl edition if at all possible.

While Kentucky is generally regarded as Panopticon's masterpiece with good reason, the quality of Collapse is similarly high. Interested listeners who enjoyed Kentucky should probably turn either to this album or to Roads to the North next.

Note: I originally wrote this review for Prog Archives.