Review: SKAGOS / PANOPTICON – "Split"

Skagos / PanopticonSplit
Release Date: 2010Oct01
Label: Flenser Records
Rating: 4/5

Skagos commands the first part of the album with mid-tempo Black Metal adorned with plenty of harmony. “Smoldering Embers” is a twelve-and-a-half minute long track. It’s interspersed with a variety of riffs, melodies and emotions, even if the tempo does hover in the same place most of that time. There are elements of North American folk, along the lines of Agalloch, and even some clean vocal harmonies which feel a bit out of place in parts. Not only that, but it’s in a strange nasal voice that sounds dorkier than Vintersorg‘s (which can be a good thing—if you’re singing about astrophysics).

The second track is even longer than the first. “Anamnesis II” starts out with some beautifully composed traditional acoustic instruments, setting a somber and organic atmosphere which contrasts with the full-shred Black Metal blast beat transition minutes later. It doesn’t last too long before it goes into mid-tempo Black Metal again. The clean vocals ensue, though this time they fit with the music perfectly, and soon later, the alternative instruments return.

My only complaints about the Skagos part of the split are the odd vocals in the first song and the production. It feels a little overproduced. Everything is so crisp and clean and it doesn’t feel real at parts. These complaints hardly make a dent in their score, however.

Panopticon is regarded by some as the greatest anarchist Black Metal project so far. This is Mr. Lundr’s latest release. It begins with a very long and unnecessary sample form an old Swedish film. When the music begins, it is drastically contrasted with the Skagos before it. I’m talking about the production here. I feel as though it’s coming through my speakers in mono. Normally, this is fine, especially for Black Metal, but on a split with strongly-produced band, not so much.

Aside from this, the next half of the split is top-notch. It’s very organic, very emotional, and as vicious as you would expect from Panopticon. “..Seeing..” begins with atmospheric synth and drum which transitions into what feels more like DSBM, evoking dark emotion.

There is one part I would have left out in the last track, “Watching You”—a violin that is hidden in the background. It’s eerily off key; a little too sharp or a little too flat. Perhaps intentional, but it sounds like amateur playing to me.

Both parts of the album are great attempts that achieve a lot, though it appears to me that their only common trait is anarchist views. Despite some fairly harsh sonic juxtapositions between Skagos and Panopticon, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses of this split.

SKAGOS
01. Smoldering Embers
02. Anamnesis II: A Dry, Sterile Thunder, Without Rain
PANOPTICON
03. A Message to the Missionary
04. ..Seeing..
05. Watching You

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