God damn post-rock. It gets its dirty hands in everything, for better or for worse (mostly for worse). I’ve been avoiding this review until I listen to at least Roads of the North, because I didn’t want to go into a review blind (for once), as I feel like my reviews are always worse if I don’t listen to any previous material. Thank fucking god I did, because Roads to the North is now enshrined as a special album to me, something I’m probably gonna try to play every winter as some sort of tradition. It’s just such a perfect album to get you into the mood for winter, especially around the holiday season. Sure it’s cold like black metal, but overall it’s a positive album, one of triumph and epic journey. I think that you could just about put any track on there as a final boss music and it would work. It fills you with determination (no for the love of god that is not an undertale reference), and god dammit if it doesn’t make you feel like a hero. But at the same time, it’s melancholy enough to feel real and earthly. It’s not music for the saving the world heroism, it’s music for the everyday heroism, like feeding your kids, or giving correct directions to the 5 people who still don’t use gps. It brings out the simple things in life.
Autmn Eternal is not that. Panopticon’s new record feels like they said fuck being subtle and fully embraces the dark side of post-rock. It starts with a nice little acoustic bit that temporarily quelled my worries. However from tracks 2-4, all I heard was bland, post-black noise. It felt very similar to how Roads felt, but more like a skeleton than a complete person. There are no riffs, there are no pauses, it’s just literal noise. There’s almost 3 complete tracks of nothing of significance. Sure, it sounds just like Roads, but it has none of the subtleties that made that album great. I’d hate to say it, but it sounds almost like a cash grab, which I hope to god isn’t true. After listening to the first half of the album, even the previously nice opening scene seems more like a token bluegrass bit, as it doesn’t show up much anywhere else in the album.
I was just about ready to dumpster this piece of shit when Sleep to the Sound of the Waves Crashing came on. I heard literal waves and my first thought was “don’t tell me they have their heads so far up their asses that they’re actually going to have us get put to sleep by field recordings of waves”, which at that point was a possibility. Thankfully this was not the case. Instead what I got was a seemingly entirely different album. It’s as if Panopticon finally remembered what made them so great, and delivered easily the best track on the album. The violin work is extraordinary, and it feels like an actual new bit of music, rather than just a tired, stereotypical rehash of their old work. Recent Panopticon albums always have this point in them where you lose track of where you are in the record and it just seems like a complete blur. It always happens towards the end, and I can’t remember any of the music other than that it was extremely enjoyable. Thankfully Autumn Eternal gives me that pleasure once more, to give me an excuse to not write words and be able to just say “I liked it”. Getting lost in the music is sometimes just as fun as analyzing it. Sometimes.
Is this record great? Of course, what else did you expect? Is this record a disappointment? I’m not sure if I can be disappointed by something I expected. It’s hard to follow up on a masterpiece, and Panopticon can’t quite do it, giving us instead half of an amazing album, and another half of something they shat out in their sleep.