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Isis - Panopticon CD (album) cover

PANOPTICON

Isis

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.09 | 186 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Any Colour You Like
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Now I like my metal to sneak up on me a bit. It's not about what you add, but what you leave out. And that is exactly what I got with Panopticon.

From the first spin, I knew this was going to be a powerful journey. It would be possible to describe this album in very few words, including: Loud, Sludgy, and Heavy. There is nothing overly complex about the Isis sound. Instead it relies on building layers of noise until the next chugging riff explodes, then subsides. The majority of the music here is melodic and easy to listen to, if not soul-crushingly loud. In between the heavy, sludge-like riffing are ambient and sometimes groove based breaks, something which adds a sense of perpetual motion to the album. Each track slowly builds until a gut-wrenching mid tempo riff carries the track away. Despite the heaviness, Panopticon is not a dark album, mysterious and restrained would probably be more apt. I can't say that the vocals are the best I've heard, they are definitely not 'pleasant' nor especially charming, but if anything, the slightly ugly growled aesthetic suits the rampant heavy sludge-filled riffs.

The beauty of Panopticon is that it manages to hold your attention throughout the course of the 59 minute running time. This doesn't sound especially interesting, but when you consider the textures and simplicity of many of the compositions, it proves that Isis' wonderful tone and fluid style remains interesting long after each track ends. Highlights for me include, 'Backlit' and 'Altered 'Course', both tracks remaining more memorable for an increased level of emotion and more clearly developed soundscapes. Apart from the average vocals (which thankfully aren't that common), there is not too much to complain about here. Isis have proven that you can make intelligent, stylistic and thought provoking metal without resorting to shredding and other forms of technical wizardry. For it is what Isis left out from Panopticon that made it so much more interesting, and to an extent, memorable.

Having said this and thought about the rating, I still cannot bring myself to give Panopticon five stars. For as much as I admire the concept, execution and presentation of the album, I think it just lacks that final polish, a certain impact that would make it nigh on untouchable. Nonetheless, it is still a fantastic listen, and remains highly recommended to all fans of Post-Rock, Post-Metal and Prog Metal in general. Oh, and did I mention it was loud?

Any Colour You Like | 4/5 |

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