The blackmosphere is in full effect today with our contest. Let's start off with the dark stylings of one-man band Panopticon.
Autumn Eternal starts out with the kind of folksy nods you might expect from a Panopticon project, but after the opening track the album's true black metal intentions take over with Into The North Woods. It's solidly good, and if the rest of the album were like it, you'd have a strong contender for Black Metal Of The Year. But Austin Lunn clearly has higher aspirations in mind, and what follows is an exploration of the two genres, systematic and intriguing but above all evocative. This music is full of genuine feels, and it takes stonier heart than mine to listen to Autumn Eternal and tell me different.
Then there's Chelsea Wolfe's Abyss. This album starts out with a slab of pure corrosion in Carrion Flowers. Devastating as that opener is, it's followed up by the epic dirge that is Iron Moon. Both these tracks showcase what the album does best: use very interesting and heavier-than-Earth music as a doomed backdrop to Chelsea's vocal wanderings. Unfortunately, by the album's middle third, that strategem begins to show its weaknesses; as the soundtrack runs out of steam, the vocals are left more and more to their own devices. There are other bright (or dark) spots on the rest of Abyss, but you're going to need to really want to find them. And worst of all, Crazy Love starts out with vocals over strummed acoustic guitar (albeit affected to hell and back); Chelsea Wolfe reminding the listener of the singer-songwriter archetype she works so hard to distance herself from is a fatal misstep.
Congratulations to Panopticon, who'll come back in three weeks and take on fellow southerners BTBAM. Tomorrow, it's gonna get fierce: Mutoid Man compete against White Widows Pact!