By Jonathan Smith
The new full-length album by one-man black metal project Panopticon arrived relatively late in the year, but it still managed to lodge itself just shy of the top of my personal top ten albums of the year. I’ve had an interest in the work of A. Lundr for a couple of years now, and Social Disservices is his most accomplished and cohesive album to date. While his self-titled debut was a highly politicized but not always musically consistent cut of fierce black metal, and Collapse was an intricate concept album about the economic collapse and subsequent rebuilding of American society, Social Disservices is an ideal mixture of the furious and atmospheric sound of the best of second wave black metal and the intense rising and falling emotions of some of the west coast USBM acts.
One of Panopticon’s strengths is that even when the sonic experiments don’t always work for me, it is rare that they do not sound like a unique blending of sub-genre elements. Social Disservices’ first track, “Resident,” eschews the more progressive and melodic tendencies of Lundr’s more recent EPs, and it instead blasts the listener with a wall of raw blackened metal. By the time the album reaches its 20-plus minute conclusion, “Patient,” Lundr has blended the more aggressive parts of his sound with the emotional punch of his more melodic side. Social Disservices ends with a trademark moment of contemplation (literally the chirping of crickets), leaving the listener with a desire for more. Though it does not quite possess the potent and urgent vibe of Altar of Plagues’ Mammal, Social Disservices takes second place in my personal albums of the year. Hopefully it will receive even more recognition in 2012.