Vestiges and Panopticon aren’t new names in extreme music. Both bands are incredibly well-known for their effortless ability to bend genres and weave together songs that are both unnaturally powerful and aesthetically pleasing. For that reason alone, I believe this split to be an attractive one for various kinds of extreme music fans as it allows both musical accessibility via the incorporation of many genres and the proliferation of new, underused, or overlooked ideas to seep into the ears of listeners.
Vestiges contributed two songs to this split, each flowing seamlessly into an eighteen minute monolith. Vestiges give listeners exactly what they’d expect from a colossal sounding band– stark, powerful instrumentals accented and then hollowed out by various overtures and churning drum work. While most of Vestiges contribution is without vocals, I didn’t find this to be a strike against the band by any means; it adds a fullness in terms of atmosphere, sacrificing vocal intensity for deeply layered, prolonged movements that are not only emotional, but physically affecting. Essentially, “VII” is the prelude to the storm that is “VIII.” “VIII” is rife with all of the common black metal tropes; tremolo guitar work, ridiculous percussion, and the characteristic shriek of black metal vocals. However it doesn’t retain this convention for long as it slips into moments of doom and switches from a guitar-based drive to a bass-laden thunder. The tracks are without a doubt the most alluring and emotionally vexing of the split, giving listeners an insight into the more bleak yet horrifyingly beautiful aspects of extreme music.
Panopticon’s work on the split is without a doubt important and moving in its own way. Having recently released the black metal-bluegrass hybrid Kentucky last year, Panopticon jumped into the light from obscurity with relative ease. Interestingly enough, the limelight has done nothing but draw attention to Panopticon’s genre-melding, driving him (it’s a one man project) deeper into the exploration of black metal and the limits and forms it can take. Unabashedly creative, Panopticon serves up three tracks for the split, one being a cover of a now defunct band (Suicide Nation). The first track and the most beautiful of the three, “A Letter” is a nine minute, surging wonder of a song. The song plays with the relationship between black metal chord structure and the thrilling, emotional aspects of post-rock convention. Musically speaking it is an emotionally volatile and multi-angled assault of humanity and innate spirituality. While the song slows near the six minute mark, the reprieve allows for the listener to regain their senses before bewitching them with the second track, “The Eulogy.”
“The Eulogy” is a shimmering, volatile exemplification of black metal. Not unlike Vestiges, Panopticon plays with the emotion of the black metal guitar sound, often sweeping and whirring into melodies and harsh vocals. It is clear that “The Eulogy” serves as a release of both anger and frustration while hinting at the possibility that redemption is indeed possible. Finally, the third track is a ripping, bone-crunching banger of a track. While I’m largely not a fan of covers, I am a huge fan of what Panopticon has done here; combining the headbanging aspects of black metal with the percussion and melodic fury of crust.
In many ways this split should be noted as one of the best exemplifications of where extreme music is, but also where it can go in the future. While many genre purists will shy away from genre-blending and flock to something that is “true” it should be not be noted, but declared that bands such as Panopticon and Vestiges are bringing something new and ripe to the table. The exploration of genres and creativity in an otherwise contained and masturbatory music genre should be lauded, rather than shoved aside.