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. ~ Wade Kergan
Uncut (p.156) - 4 stars out of 5 - "PANOPTICON consists largely of instrumental chunks of Mogwai-style post-rock that those with long attention spans will find utterly rewarding."
Alternative Press (p.156) - "PANOPTICON sees Isis carving off sprawling slabs of cyclical riffery in more sparing portions, making their force-of-nature heaviness all the more effective as it diffuses seamlessly into a cinematic post-rock galaxy of ringing notes and electronic ephemera." - 5 out of 5
Magnet (pp.99-100) - "Isis creates high-concept, staunchly progressive heavy metal....Like a brutal argument, it's emotionally draining but ultimately rewarding."
CMJ (p.42) - "PANOPTICON slowly constructs walls of impenetrable sound, an Isis trademark....As each song grows ever more crushing on PANOPTICON, Isis rebuilds itself, evolving with each Darwinistic step."
CMJ (p.4) - "[L]ight and dark melodies supported by coagulating, heavy arrangements remain the key ingredient in L.A.-via-Boston psych-metal quintet Isis' eight-minute iron curtains of sound on PANOPTICON."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.99) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[A] breathtaking balance of instrumental maelstrom with devastating, near-elemental power - this is music for titans."