Panopticon‘s The Rime of Memory is one of unquestionable meaning, providing valuable insight and perspective on the burdens of life.

Release date: November 29, 2023 | Bindrune Recordings | Facebook | Bandcamp

I’d imagine that most people who willingly come to read articles on Everything Is Noise are appreciative of when albums have a deeply profound meaning. Music is more than just music when there is an underlying message that is as important, if not more, than the combination of sounds that accompany it. One such record is the latest release from Panopticon, The Rime of Memory. Panopticon is an artist that is widely revered by our team and is no stranger to being featured on our site in multiple capacities; either as a Weekly Featured Artist, in our A Scene In Retrospect series, or in previous album reviews. It is only natural that we find ourselves here with a review of the atmospheric black metal titan of a record that is The Rime of Memory.

First and foremost, I suggest you read the highly insightful, brief background piece about the record written by none other than Austin Lunn, the genius behind Panopticon’s music: you can find this here. I want you to read it exactly as Lunn had intended as it provides so much more context and emotional weight than could ever possibly be provided by any other individual trying to paraphrase his words, myself included. As elegantly put by fellow writer, Dylan, on their WFA article, Panopticon crafts music that encapsulates the spirit of life, with all the endless woes and joys one is bound to encounter.

Put succinctly, The Rime of Memory is the musical culmination of everything Panopticon has accomplished thus far in their expansive musical career. It is their most ambitious work yet, featuring the beefiest track runtimes found on any record of theirs thus far. Although Panopticon has always been recognized for the masterful fusion of blisteringly abrasive black metal with haunting Americana/Appalachian folk influence, there is no denying Lunn has truly outdone himself on this record. It is immensely gratifying watching an artist evolve for the better, continuously improving with each successive release whilst simultaneously pushing the musical envelope for what can be achieved in the genre.

At first glance, you’ll likely notice the daunting near eighty-minute runtime, but The Rime of Memory is the type of record that while exhausting at times, it causes you to completely lose sense of time and space as you get fully engulfed in the crashing and equally blissful walls of sound, causing it to feel nowhere near as long as it actually is. The heavier moments are mentally numbing in such a way that facilitates that dissociation from time, cleverly balancing out the fatiguing track lengths, but not in such a way that renders the music forgettable by any means. Only Panopticon is fully capable of transforming these prolonged, seemingly static black metal segments into something that is far from wearisome with the inclusion of so many different types of instruments beyond what you normally see in a black metal band nowadays. These additional musical elements are weaved into musical fabric in such a tasteful manner that it never seems overboard nor out of place whatsoever.

The fan-favorite, “Winter’s Ghost”, is a hulking twenty-minute epic that very well could be an album in itself with the immense journey that it takes you on. The last third of “Cedar Skeletons” is incredibly sublime with weeping orchestral arrangements and a booming choir that come in following the monologues. It makes for an epic outro that is so grandiose that it instills this sense of inescapable doom. It makes me feel as if I am witnessing a wildfire reach the point where the only viable thing left to do is run. The sheer terror and awe that is captured in this song is nothing short of breathtaking. What blows my mind is the fact that essentially every song on The Rime of Memory (with the exception of the brief intro track) is ripe with special moments like this. There is so much meat to sink your teeth into that you’ll never go hungry listening this record.

Despite there being so much to love here, the final two tracks are ones that I find myself constantly coming back to, as they contain everything I love about Panopticon and music as a whole. The back half of “Enduring The Snow Drought” features this gorgeously somber ambient bridge, slowly progressing with intricately dynamic instrumentation into an explosive melancholic climax with cascading guitar tremolos and just raw, musical rage. Just how everything culminates in this particular track makes for one of the finest moments in black metal that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing; pay close attention to the drum fills especially and you’ll be as enamored as I.

“The Blue Against The White” takes on the impossible task of following up the preceding song with hauntingly gorgeous vocals that are balm for the soul. As you’ve come to discover by know, expect nothing but sorrowful orchestral melodies layered over the punishing black metal with screams riddled with unadulterated agony and desperation that it makes for an astonishing way to close out such a stunning arrangement of songs. During the final few outbursts of this track, you’ll hear cavernous screams that are so rich with anguish and sorrow that you can feel these vivid emotions as if you were experiencing them firsthand. If a waterfall of emotions wasn’t pouring out of you by this point, they most certainly are now with how psychologically intense these final moments are.

Despite being absolutely head over heels for this record, there is no such thing as perfect and I want to mention two minor details that could’ve been improved upon pretty easily. The monologues in “Cedar Skeletons” and “An Autumn Storm” are incredibly difficult to make out with how they’re buried by the instrumentals. The inclusion of these monologues would suggest that their messages are of the utmost importance, especially on a record with profound lyrics as are found here. You can only make out some keywords between the notes to vaguely understand that the message is worth hearing but that’s it. Aside from that, the bells in the first half of “Enduring The Snow Drought” are obviously timed to coincide with the last note in the recurring phrase of the lead guitar melody. Yet there are a few ringing of the bells that are a fraction of a millisecond delayed and that synchrony is momentarily lost. At least this infrequent delay is so incredibly minor that it is hardly noticeable and doesn’t take away from the rest of the music at all.

While 2023 has been a year filled to the brim with stellar releases, nothing has connected with me on such a level that of The Rime of Memory. Quite honestly, there has been very few records that have resonated me on a similar level in general, the last I can confidently say being Rolo Tomassi‘s Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It from 2018; yeah, it’s that good. Anyways, The Rime of Memory is the type of record that shatters your heart, only to gently mend it back together to be broken yet again on the successive track. You owe it to yourself to embark on this emotional journey that mirrors the impermanence of life, as it’ll bring you the perspective that you didn’t know you needed.

Leave a Reply