Perhaps calling it Bandcamp of the week was slightly ambitious, nonetheless, I return to look at my pick of the brightest and most interesting artists on the independent music platform, Bandcamp. In its debut outing, we looked at Japanese all-girl garage punk outfit Otoboke Beaver, this time we are heading somewhere completely different – Black Metal.
Whether you are a fan of the genre or not, some truths are self-evident with this subset of metal whether you are coming from it via the mainstream awareness of bands like Cradle of filth or the extremities of its Scandinavian luminaries. A few other things are common themes, all band photography has to be moody and shot in black in white and the thematic constructs of the band have to be home to more nihilism than a Marxist meetup. Yes, I am proud of that sentence. With the rise of bands like Deafheaven and Wolves in the Throne Room, the darker connotations have started to peel off over the years. Platform’s like Bandcamp helped with that too, with it providing an outlet for every imaginable twist on the formula from atmospheric to pagan and even some chiptune (Master Boot Record) and psychedelic licks making their way into the mix too. Things have moved on from the upset the core fans had when Deafheaven dared to release a record with pink cover art – the horror of such an idea.
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The one man band is a common conceit in many strands of music and is no stranger to the black metal landscape, A. Lunn of Panopticon does things very differently. Based out of woodlands of Kentucky, his music is most hopeful and optimistic than you may expect with him owing more to the natural world than the heightened emotion of his genre cohorts. But again, that doesn’t necessarily make it different to what already exists because, like I said, there is that pagan subset that is popular in many circles. The interesting and ever unique aspect of their sound comes from the breakdown and quieter tracks, many bands enjoy adopting post-rock quiet-loud mechanics (think Godspeed you Black Emperor or Explosions in the Sky) and again Panopticon also does that. Austin Lunn goes even further. He has cacophonous metal, he has beautiful instrumental rock moments, and he also has bluegrass. Yes, you read that correctly, bluegrass.
It may sound like an absolute mess in your head right now, and to be honest, I don’t blame you for making that assumption – bluegrass black metal sounds like an abomination in all the ways the genre isn’t striving for. But lo and behold it works for the pure and simple reason of flow. His songs slow down to a crawl, peeling away all extraneous instruments till only the acoustic guitar remains and given where in the world he is based, using that acoustic guitar to lay down intricate bluegrass is exactly what you should expect. Using the land as an influence on the music you make is a such a great idea I don’t know why more musicians don’t do it. If they did, it’d put an end to all those barely competent busker’s you see in your local town center adopting an American accent in their singing even though they have never been anywhere near the place – you could say that was a personal annoyance. On a level more specific to Austin Lunn and Panopticon, it creates a sound that is equally noisy and doom-laden with one that is relaxed and hopeful, the influence of the land permeates every level of his sound and it’s beautiful.