Epitaphe – I (2019) REVIEW

Looming in the dark are far less dangerous monstrosities than modern men who’d embrace the burning sunlight as emboldened fiends with grown horns of greed, who’d begin to spray the blood of caged children to keep their commandeered lawns green. The amber glowing candlelit night is where the somber gifted commune in relative solace, wherever lit it is there they float as inert geist to haunt one another with boiling sorrows and tend to their spectral wounds. Stitched with threads of enlightened thought in their cold, dark respite extends a blanketed calm amidst an ever-ending world. No fool would endeavor to own the dashed remains of it nor the writhing species atop those well-scraped bones. The walls of mountains remain towering over all, burning first and hottest until the graying toxic clouds suffocate the fire and whirl a bevvy of phantasm beyond. A cloak of impossible colors sprays and cycles into countless whipping storms; So grand their painterly scour it’d remain immune to any witness, lest they would burn the flesh and the eyes from the seer. Disillusioned skies rain down a ruthless ichor, a now poisonous blood from the corpse of our pantheon and the sphere withers beneath in the forever dark storms. The underworld now an atmosphere and home new forms of life, the very treachery of weather systems and their apocalyptic battlements forever locked in residual rancorous tides as the death of all life stirs within their bellies. Clairvoyants, old souls, or earned scholars of the powerful darkness of doom itself — No one explanation is weighted enough to express they the gifted within Claix, France band Epitaphe and their natural grasp of unreal atmospherics, mountainous death music, and the doom that has come to define our species. On this their funereal debut the no longer nascent quartet whirl their craft into mastery so convincingly that it becomes difficult to imagine a world where they’d ascend higher.

Formed for the love of thrash and pure death metal some years prior to their official status as Epitaphe, the transformation from an early brutal standard (akin to war/death metal hybrid) to a farseeing experimental death/doom organism came with collective maturation of skill and taste. No officially demo release would come until 2018 when ‘Demo MMXVII’ was released on Chaos Records. The production was bare-skinned and raw in its atmospheric psychedelia, almost formless and very blackened but the core of the aggression was relatable as death/doom and dissonant black/death with grand experimental noise and well designed ambiance heating the experience. I remember being completely flustered by it, as it’d felt like a live ritual I’d unwittingly stumbled upon when climbing a hill. The unhinged freedom of the demo would culminate in the still incredible “Smouldering Darkness” which ended the demo. This song is reborn as the nearly twenty minute introduction to ‘I’ and it quickly delineates the general rough outline provided by the demo versus the incredibly polished production and fleshed out performance of the full-length. The rest of the demo tracks made it on the album as well, linking up in structure but each has been combed over and smoothed into pieces that flow together naturally. In the vice of the demo it all felt dryly achieved and related to Incantation-esque spheres of dissonant blackened death metal (Shroud of the Heretic, Abyssal, etc.) but now I see the unlight of Dead Congregation, the unconstrained spiral of Chaos Echœs, and the transitional records (see: ‘Foulest Semen…’) from The Ruins of Beverast within the mindful approach of Epitaphe. They’ve achieved a beauteous roughness between these influences and transcended them all the same within ‘I’.

The fine line between carelessness and charming ambition falls as much on the shoulders of conviction (of performance) as it does taste. This is where I begin to fawn over the less traditional structures of Epitaphe and their use of experimental noise. The boon of confidence amongst the atmospheric torsion of it all is the intermittent use of Infester-esque brutality that you’ll find in groups like Desolation Realm. Therein lies the horror of a comparable group such as Inverloch with the major differentiation being a deeper exploration of ruinous, unbuttoned rhythms. There is a sense of classic death/doom lineage as well as completely unrelated modern influences that create a curious gel of unpredictable and exciting pieces, this is most challenging in the first two songs which total just over 29 minutes of the hour long experience. Beyond the acoustic interlude (“Rêveries”) comes the most immediately gratifying presence in “Downward Stream” a song that’d evolved quite a bit since the demo version that really benefits from the production from Barús‘ guitarist Eihvihnrüd. This Side B kick-off is comparable to recent Krypts releases in many respects but the black metal influenced second half of the song is something uniquely Epitaphe at this point. The final surprise comes with a completely new composition, “Monolithe”, which sees a deeper shift towards black/death metal style a la Lecherous Nocturne (or Embrace of Thorns, perhaps) in its first half that fades into atmospheric black metal towards a finale that is post-rock before bending into growling psychedelic death metal as it peaks. Every piece on this hour-long trip is a uniquely achieved diabolical soul escaping outwards into the apeiron.

That is the essence of peak modern extreme metal, though, that limitless and boundary-freed apeiron is almost a barrier in and of itself for the sight of the mind, the draw-distance of the ear is the limit. The ‘self’ is the obstruction and the gift of such adventurous and imaginative music is the freeing wings it provides, the candle it lights for the lost. I am thankful to the point of emotion as it ends and the cycle begins again, to witness the burning mountains and the spiraling wake of their smoke flapping in the air as a banner to this new beginning that comes so close to the end of all. Daunting as Side A might seem the full listen is incredibly balanced for my own attention span, though I’m sure the impatient would do better elsewhere. I found myself approaching the album one side at a time to begin and then once the whole was familiar in cadence I began spinning it in full in moderation. There is the intent of ‘funeral doom’ atmospheric values but I’d say a majority of the album’s content is of a faster and aggressive pace. So, it shouldn’t be as exhausting as one might expect from the hour length thanks to variable pacing and a solid grasp of compelling death metal guitar riffs. This is all exactly to my liking and entirely for my taste, especially coming after the latest Krypts record. Very highly recommended, there is yet some room to grow and expand their sound but Epitaphe have absolutely surpassed the expectations set by their demo from last year. For preview I’d suggest “Downward Stream” as an introduction and then consider “Smouldering Darkness” for a sense of their atmospheric depth.

Epiaphe - I cover

Artist Epitaphe
Type Album
Released June 26, 2019
BUY from Aesthetic Death’s Store Follow Epitaphe on Facebook
Genre Psychedelic Death/Doom Metal,
Experimental Blackened Death Metal

Abstrait ce qui est concret. 4.75/5.0

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