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A “Panopticon” is an old design for a building that’s pretty much one big one-way mirror, so I guess it fits to make a four part concept album about an asylum. Social Disservices bounces around the last 15 years of metal between purposeful Gojira, hypnotic Darkthrone, and hypercognizant Edge of Sanity, but the two Austin Lunns (not related) of Panopticon are careful to string everything together. There’s half a dozen moods and metal styles here, and they all flow into a perfectly listenable album.
Track 1 starts with 1 min and #2 has 2 min of kids laughing/crying, but both then kick fast into a couple different strains of black metal. Track 3 has a long break between pseudo-symphonic metal and a great burst of pure melodic stuff that I have to swear sounds straight out of 1997 Stockholm (both ALunns are USA, now Kentucky). Track 4 is a blend of tracks 1-3 and partly reverses the album’s earlier momentum towards purity for almost 20 minutes…
but which brings me to why I can’t let this album into my pissy little heart. In over 45 minutes of recombinant metal, Social Disservices offers nothing new. The concept behind the album itself remains vague- tracks 3 & 4, named for inmates, are way lighter than 1 & 2, named for staff, suggesting that some master/slave inverted freedom is going on here- but then why the album’s title and cover art?? Maybe it’s an American thing, needing to have our take on some styles that have been largely dominated by our frosty northern kith, but the sheer variety of this album seems to cut off any real attempt at expression. Track 4 ends with a couple minutes of crickets, and I chose to interpret that in the meanest way I could.
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