With Panopticon's 5th full-length album, Kentucky, Austin Lunn pushed the boundaries and blurred the lines between melodic US black metal and folk driven Americana. Bluegrass, with its high and lonesome sound and cultural and emotional significance, provided the perfect backdrop for Austin's lyrical exploration of the Kentucky's rich cultural heritage and unique environment as well as coal miner's plight to stand up against the cruelty of a greed driven fossil fuel industry as they struggled to organize a union to fight against horrific working conditions. The album is about more than just coal mining history...it is a love letter to the " blue grass state" and the beautiful people and places contained within its borders.
The intensity unleashed by Austin's black metal roots acted as a contrast alongside beautiful acoustic numbers that intermingled with the distortion to further empower the message upheld by this album. Pointing out the corruption and mistreatment of people and the envrionment by those in power isn't a new concept, in fact it's even more important now than it ever was, but let us not forget those who came before us who suffered and died fighting back for better pay, preservation of the environment and safer working conditions.
To this day, Kentucky stands as Panopticon's break thru album, filled with passion and fire for the subject matter it describes. The album presents a stark change from the preceding full lengths, "Social Disservices" and "On the Subject Of Mortality" as is leaves some of the darker, more traditional "Black" metal elements behind, in favor of more melodic and harmonious territory, opting instead to sit comfortably as "North American Folk Metal".
Kentucky is a singular work even among Panopticon's impressive discography, and it's not surprising that it's attracted more notice than any of the project's works before or since. Highly recommended. - Gospel of Crom5/5