Listen to the gorgeous black metal on Austin Lunn's new Panopticon album—and drink his Viking beers

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The cover of Autumn Eternal, the brand-new Panopticon record
  • The cover of Autumn Eternal, the brand-new Panopticon record
This week Austin Lunn, mountain-man mastermind of black-metal project Panopticon, completes a trilogy of albums he began three years ago, releasing Autumn Eternal via Bindrune Recordings. The 2012 masterpiece Kentucky started the series, fusing black metal and bluegrass in an arresting homage to the Appalachians—as well as to the courage and suffering of the ordinary people who fought the coal companies despoiling those mountains. Roads to the North, a more orthodox black-metal album, followed in 2014, and Autumn Eternal—which features John Becker of Chicago goth-pop group Vaskula playing violin on two tracks—comes out tomorrow.

The new album is pastoral and furious, raw and beautiful, lyric and bestial. It evokes loneliness, loss, and grief alongside transcendence and renewal—a triumph of the spirit that will not spare the body from death. At the time of this writing, Panopticon had two tracks streaming on Bandcamp: "Into the North Woods" and "Autumn Eternal." You can listen to both of them below.

As an erstwhile beer writer, though, I have another motive for mentioning Panopticon. Since 2013, Lunn and brother-in-law Nathaniel Chapman have run Hammerheart Brewing in Lino Lakes, Minnesota, a little town about 20 miles northeast of Minneapolis. (Lunn moved there from Louisville a few years ago.) They named their operation after the seminal 1990 Bathory album, and they brew just about the most metal beers I've ever tasted.

The Hammerheart crew, according to their website, are "inspired by Norse and Celtic history, lore, old world tradition, beauty and wonder of dense forests, running water, towering mountains and of course, all forms of heavy metal." Almost everything they make tastes at least a little smoky, in a nod to historical brewing techniques that involved drying and curing malt over a fire. And before you wrinkle your nose at that because you think you don't like smoked beers, let me say that it's always a subtle, carefully blended flavor, usually fruity and woody—you'll never get that "licking an ashtray" feeling.

Louis Glunz picked up Hammerheart's kegs for Chicago distribution in June, and since then I've seen their beers at the Local Option, the Hopleaf, Jerry's in Andersonville, the Bad Apple, the Map Room, and Kuma's. (Bear in mind that I live in Edgewater, so north-side bars are overrepresented in my sample.) So far I've tried Flaming Longship Scottish ale, Dublin Raid peat-smoked Irish red, Hokan's brown ale, Thor's smoked chile porter, Fautzrauch smoked pale ale, and Imperial Longship barrel-aged smoked Scottish ale, which is probably my favorite—it's impossibly rich without tipping over into cloying sweetness. Wait, I almost forgot the most explicitly metal beer in the bunch: Serpensblod, a peppery malt-forward red rye ale named after the most recent Agalloch album, last year's The Serpent & the Sphere

Of course, this is far from the entire Hammerheart portfolio, but everything I've had has been so good that I'm more than comfortable making a blanket recommendation. If you see a Hammerheart beer on tap, give it a shot. You won't be sorry. And skål, you heathens!


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