Panopticon, Vestiges create astonishing team for their murky, mighty split effort

12 Jacket (Gatefold - One Pocket) [GDOB2-30CH-001]

If you’ll indulge my horrible obsession with 1980s professional wrestling for a moment, there is an art to putting together a great tag team. Yeah, yeah, it’s all fake and whatnot, but you still have to be able to find two people who can work together, know how to communicate, and be an effective tandem so that they’re fun to watch.

The same can be said for split releases. There are many different purposes for one, whether it’s two like-minded bands working on a singular story, a label wanting to get two of their artists a little more exposure to a wider audience, one band trying to use its name to help another, or just two or more bands wanting to release something together. The best splits, however, combine bands whose work stands next to each other’s effectively without either one of them seeming like they’re in the wrong place. They form a team, even if their music isn’t supposed to be linked otherwise, and experiencing their music becomes an organic affair.

That brings us to the new split from two heavyweights in the atmospheric metal world, that being Vestiges and Panopticon. Just on the surface their union sounded like a logical one, as each project has a sound that works in concert with each other’s, but there are enough differences to separate them. Yet, it wasn’t until hearing this five-track collection (Panopticon contribute three tracks, while Vestiges offer up two helpings of thunder) that I realized just how perfect it was. The album works together so well, and each band’s music flows so logically with the other’s that future collaborations would be totally welcome. This is a really stimulating, crushing collection of songs, and I’ve noticed I’ve been spending a lot of time with this record lately and soaking in everything it has to offer.



Washington, D.C.’s Vestiges get things started on this collection, and the music carries over from a story they’ve been telling since their 2010 debut “The Descent of Man” and into their split with Ghaust, that being mankind’s presence in and destruction of the nature that surrounds it. Never is this theme timelier than it is now, with people trying to claim some of the human-made destruction is a myth and that science is more theory than fact. Vestiges see hope if our actions can be reversed, and even though the band lashes out like they have no hope for the planet, instead they tell of the force of nature reclaiming what’s rightfully hers.

“VII” opens quietly and reflectively, as the song contains chiming guitars and a pocket of noise that sits and simmers but threatens to break. Sure enough, as the song reaches its conclusion, it does burst, with furious, scathing vocals and a bubbling tumult that rolls right into “VIII.” This devastating statement explodes from the moment is starts, with harsh growls, glorious melodies, and an atmospheric approach, letting you breathe in a giant gush of air to replenish your lungs but also knock you for a loop. Eventually the song subsides and trickles, softening the blow ever so temporarily, before it hits its stride again and rages to a finish like the Earth itself punishing us for all the evil that we’ve done over our time here. Both tracks are enthralling pieces, and if you’re new to Vestiges, this makes for an effective, informative introduction to one of metal’s fresh new forces.

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One-man black metal force Panopticon is no stranger to these pages, as we’ve heavily praised releases such as last year’s landmark “Kentucky,” one of the genre’s—hell, music’s– most unique albums of the year, as well as 2011’s excellent “Social Disservices.” Austin Lunn is one of the more thoughtful, creative minds in all of metal, and he’s managed to build a really impressive resume in not all that much time. As one might expect, he continues his heart-crushing musical endeavors here, but without a tried-and-true theme, he lets loose a little more than usual and brings a more sinister energy to the already raw music.

“A Letter” runs a little over nine minutes and is dressed with wild shrieks and screams, some eerily clean guitars behind the murk a la Xasthur, and some truly spirited playing in a way that really isn’t a surprise for someone like Lunn. He always manages to make the most of things and sound like 10 people instead of one guy bringing all of this madness. “Eulogy” is built on a similar-sounding main melody line, but it branches off into dreamy post-rock territory musically. Lunn still howls like a sadist, but the mournful backing gives the song a touch of sadness and pain, which may be implied by the song’s title anyway. Closer “Collapse and Die” is a punishing cover of the Suicide Nation song that is given righteously savage treatment, though it does slip into Americana, calling back to “Kentucky” ever so briefly. It’s a massive song and a killer way to wrap up his selections, and it’s cool to hear Lunn just lighting things on fire.

I hereby name Panopticon and Vestiges the split effort tag team champions of the world. Their shiny gold belts will be in the mail shortly. All joking aside, this is a fantastic musical union and has been an absolute pleasure to hear over and over while preparing to write about it. And trust me, my time with this record won’t be ending any time soon now that my piece on it is published. I’ve long been a supporter of both bands, figured they’d fit together perfectly, and am pleasantly surprised with the results even considering all that. This is a stunning step for both bands, another building block on their way to total domination.

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