Music We Love: Brutal Juice Releases "Welcome To The Panopticon"

Today is an exciting day. For the first time in over a decade, Brutal Juice has released a new full-length album. Ten-plus years is a long time to wait for a new record, but let us assure you: the wait for Welcome To The Panopticon was well worth it.

Following a dissolution in 1997 and a 2012 reunion, lead singer and guitarist Craig Welch says that Welcome To The Panopticon took over five years to complete. “This album was written and conceived by [lead singer and guitarist] Gordon Michael Gibson. Panopticon has some older Brutal Juice songs that where written by the band over the last 25 years or so,” Welch says. He explains that Gibson wrote and brought the songs to the band, which gave Welch and the rest of the group (bassist/vocalist Sam McCall, guitarist/vocalist Ted Wood, and drummer Ben Burt) an opportunity to add their own singular touches to the project.

If there’s one thing that excites Welch the most about this new record, it’s the new sound of the project. “Welcome To The Panopticon is closer to metal than any of our previous efforts. This is what sets it apart,” he says. He’s certainly right about this—where older works like Mutilation Makes Identification Difficult and All American City/Bound For Glory had a more distinctly prog- and punk-rock feel about them, Panopticon is much heavier and more propulsive. The album’s opener “Reptoid vs. Stonehenge” is a galloping track with a stoner metal groove; “Southern Strategy” contains a breakdown heavy enough to shatter an eardrum. Panopticon is diverse in the genres it appropriates, ranging from heavy metal standards to speed and thrash tracks tinged with darker, blacker influences. (The closing death growl on “Children Of The Python” is more than appropriate following the eerie psychedelic vocals of the track’s bridge.)

However, this album isn’t a complete departure from Brutal Juice’s origins. “Black Sunrise” retains the tricky time signatures of some of the band’s older tracks, and “The Banality Of Evil” is unmistakably rooted in post-hardcore riffs and syncopation. The lyrics of “Bound For Glory” make a direct callback to Mutilation; in fact, the album’s full title is embedded in the words. This is a record that Brutal Juice’s oldest and more recent fans will be able to appreciate.

As the album’s title implies, Welcome To The Panopticon’s primary concern is with (in the words of “Facedown Takedown”) the “futuroid dystopia” that is contemporary life: the band urges its listeners to wake up, stand up, and throw off authoritarian oppression. Rife with images of reptilian mythos and black-boots-on-the-neck, the record is deeply and unapologetically paranoid. But it’s also smart, poetic, and sometimes carefully subtle as well. “Reptoid vs. Stonehenge” refigures Plato’s cave analogy; the titular track closes with a stark drumbeat reminiscent of a funeral march. These are the kinds of small touches that keep Panopticon’s mania nuanced, even prescient.

Welcome To The Panopticon, which releases today, was tracked by John Congleton (of Dallas’ Elmwood Recording) and Josh Fagan (of Denton’s Old Guinea Record Haus.) Mixing was completed by Gibson, and Chicago’s Carl Saff mastered the record. Brutal Juice’s album release show is tonight at Three Links in Deep Ellum and begins at 9 PM.

Header image design by Brittany Keeton
Image by Heath McBurnett