Epitaphe are a band from Grenoble in the proximity of the French Alps who ply their trade in the death metal category and have just released their first demo, Demo MMXVII, to high acclaim. It has taken the band just over a year to get together, rehearse and define their sound to unleash to the masses, and on repeated listens I have to say that I like the sound very much indeed. I have reviewed a lot of French bands recently, namely Mercyless, Savage Annihilation and Defenestration and with the resurgence of legendary band Arkhon Infaustus, France is emerging as a talent hotspot for extreme metal and could be at its most prominent in years. Well, Epitaphe can add themselves to that roster as I am sure they will garner a lot of interest on the strength of this demo.
Recorded in the French Alps, the sound of the demo adds to the atmosphere of the songs, creating an overall fresh feel to the music to a tried and tested formula of doom/death metal.
Opening track “The Downward Stream” starts off with intense riffs and blast beats which reminded me of Dead Congregation, especially with the drum sound. The opening track is more than ten minutes long and it’s almost two minutes in before we get any vocals.
Now, you all know that I like my bands with dual vocals, as having that diversity just intensifies the experience for the listener. So imagine my pleasure when I see that there are three vocalists in this four piece band, with each vocalist adding a different dimension to the attack. I love the density of the opening vocals, with the indecipherable deep growling followed by lighter death growls that are more coherent and almost black metal in places. I just love this in any band when it is done right and it most certainly is in this case.
As the song goes on, I am getting hints of Incantation thrown into the mix but Epitaphe know how to mix death and doom rather well indeed. There are the blast beats, the intensely slow doomier sections and some
harsh noise/keyboards added in sections too, which keeps the listener paying attention for the whole opening track. An excellent start to this demo.
[Editor’s note – the band got in touch to correct us on the above:
Drone, ambient, noises and “strange” sounding melodies are done “live” with several pedal effects on my bass. For “Smouldering Darkness” some sounds are done by the guitar on the part that begins at 5 :48 and chords that can be mistaken for keyboards before the final part are also done by the guitar (with a technique called “violoning“).
Many thanks to Paul for emailing us with those details! – Mosh]
“Embers” is next and opens seamlessly from the previous track with some ritualistic sounds and drums, setting a tense atmosphere before, again, it’s over the two minute mark before there are any vocals. I hear some Portal when the Australian outfit are at their slowest, but overall, Epitaphe have created enough of their own sound to not be called mere copycats. Having the keyboards and harsh noise, ritualistic segments and diversity in the vocals make this happen. Again there is the mixture of out and out blast beats and brutal death metal, which immediately slows to a crawl emphasising the deep remorse in the music. This is expert musicianship and a possible highlight of the demo altogether.
Eighteen minute final track “Smouldering Darkness” starts off with some more harsh noise/drone elements [see above – Mosh], punishing the listener at the same time and again it’s after the two minute mark before we get the guitars playing a slow dissonant riff in the vein of Autopsy. Then there are desperate mournful cries of anguish before a lighter spell of riffs and blackish metal vocals sets the tone.
Once again Epitaphe show how they can mix up the styles well, keeping the listener’s attention at all times. There are then the frenetic riffs and blast beats and the deep guttural vocals that return, bringing chaos and influences from fellow countrymen Arkhon Infaustus.
This is supreme stuff and I cannot help but rewind and listen to the song again. Being the length that it is, you will need to listen to each track multiple times but you will be rewarded in doing so when you find something new on each listen. The mid section, be it ten minutes or so, is mostly fast paced bringing their touches of death, black and doom metal together before being subjected to lighter ambient moments and Neurosis-style riffs and vocals to end the demo.
Epitaphe’s strength is that they know how to build atmosphere, making you want to sit in darkness, close your eyes, bow your head and just let the music possess and engulf you. It will be interesting to see how well these three tracks go down on the live front, but until then, this listener will be sitting in darkness.
Demo MMXVII is out now