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Album Review

If the glacial dynamics of previous metal and hardcore abstractions Celestial and Oceanic didn't prove that Isis was a heavy band in every sense, then Panopticon should do the trick. The title comes from 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham's prison design, which was later referenced by Michael Foucault in the 20th century. The idea is that a centrally placed guard or watcher can keep track of a large number of prisoners, and it excited Bentham and concerned Foucault. Heavy stuff for a metal band, huh? Both are quoted in the liner notes, bookended by aerial industrial photos laying out society's open sprawl. It fits perfectly with the epic music on the disc itself, which is as angular as post-rock forefathers Slint and as cosmically expansive as Neurosis, yet closer to the intensity of hardcore than either of them. Panopticon has the same cagey wall of noise as Oceanic, although the end product here is a little more polished. Aaron Turner is still howling and growling, but he's less reluctant to actually sing, just as the music is more inclined to stretch out into Pink Floyd's velvet atmospherics, which were a part of Oceanic, too, but just not as pronounced as they are here. Turner's lyrics are impenetrable, buried in the mix, but when they do pop through the haze of guitars and electronics they're appropriately weighty and tied to the omniscient paranoia of the title.

Customer Reviews

Expansive masterpiece

A huge Expansive Lp. Almost a Spiritual experience to listen to the whole LP in one go really loud and undisturbed. A healing experience too. A masterpiece to behold at the right time and place. Not an Lp to be skipped through or listened to in disturbed pieces. It has to be experienced as well as listened to.


There are very few perfect albums out there. In my opinion this is one. Tracks 1 to 7. The opener 'So Did We' quite simply blows you away with its truly mammoth like guitar and (the ledgend that is) Aaron Turner howling "Our skin, worn thin." My idolising of the ISIS frontman aside, nobody in the band takes a backseat; everybody's instrument is always contributing in someway. Whether it be a subtle few notes or a monsterous riff. After listening to this album many (many, many, many) times, Panopticon feels like a perfectly crafted album with not a note out of place. In my eyes this is ISIS breakthrough and their best album to date. It combines the mellow serenity on their latest offering (In Absence Of Truth) and the monumentally heavy parts, prominent on earlier albums (Mosquito Control, Celestial). Favourite Album Ever.

An expansive hypnotic masterpiece

I'm not a metal fan by any stretch of the imagination, however, this album transcends the genre - listeners would be wise to not try and pigeon hole it. It is both intense and breathtakingly beautiful at the same time and for me, the idea of dense soundscapes and screamed vocals having this effect is extraordinary. The opener 'So Did We' is the strongest statement of intent to an album I've ever experienced and it took awhile for me to fully understand what the song was about as I was initally discouraged by the screamed vocals. Persevere however and you'll be rewarded with an expansive hynotic masterpiece, which will change your perception of your record collection. If you find yourself intrigued by this then buy the album and allow yourself to be consumed by a remarkable and groundbreaking piece of music.


Formed: 1997 in Boston, MA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Although rooted heavy metal and the punk/hardcore aesthetic, Isis' music relies just as heavily on ambience, atmosphere, and tone as it does complexity and aggression. Not so much a band per se as a musical collective, the members of the Boston-based quintet layer their compositions with feedback, power chords, quiet/loud dynamics, and vocals that are sometimes shouted, frequently screamed, and occasionally sung. The band was formed by Hydra Head Records owner Aaron Turner, who was hoping to combine...
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