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They did a lot Better for the Second Coming - 64%

Thumbman, December 18th, 2016

Heh, Panopticon splits can be a bit of a mixed bag. I've previously stated that splits are an integral part of Panopticon's discography, and I stick by that (the one with Skagos is crucial), but it doesn't mean they're all good. While Panopticon does overshadow Wheels Within Wheels, this definitely isn't Lunn's greatest work. Sure it is early on, but the debut was a hell of a lot better than this. However, he does have some cool ideas and this shows his bluegrass side gestating. Wheels Within Wheels don't do a great job here. While they did a fantastic job on the second split these two bands teemed up for, it's apparent that on the first one they haven't quite figured it out yet.

An early example of bluegrass from Austin, his side starts with "Speaking". If bluegrass had a doom equivalent, this would be it. This ten minute atmospheric piece is slow and mostly relies on haunting dark americana vibes (definitely some gothic country in there). "The Ghosts of Haymarket Square" sees Panopticon still in its raw crusty black metal phase. There's a lot of clamor to this, it's very earthy and busy and quite raw and low-fi. There's a lingering atmosphere hiding behind the raw veneer, some melody and even vague hints at bluegrass in that big atmospheric break. It's a relatively cool song, but as far as Panopticon songs though, he has routinely done a lot better.

Wheels Within Wheels are equally raw, but there's not real oomph to the rawness. They play a very atmospheric style of black metal and they just really can't pull it off. On the surface, it's not particularly bad, but it's all style and no substance. There's very little in the way of songwriting and the atmosphere isn't fully formed enough for it to succeed solely because of it. While listenable, it has very little staying power and is a bit of a mess, if not sort of cool in parts.

Dedicated fans of Panopticon will probably at least somewhat get something out of this, but there's also no harm in overlooking this. The second split these guys did together is far more essential. It's pretty cool that this came in a zine with a patch - would have loved to have gotten my hands on this for that alone. The music, while possessing some interesting sections here and there, hardly shows either band on top of their game.