You know, for the longest time, I though that I didn’t like death metal. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure why that was the case. I was probably listening to the wrong stuff, because it all sounded the same to me – the riffs, the guitar solos, the triggered drum sounds. But like I said a few days ago in my review of The Ominous Circle’s new record, death metal has been experiencing a renaissance in the last few years, and I am loving it. Three of my top five albums for 2016 were death metal records, including my album of the year; even as recently as two years ago, I don’t think there were three death metal albums total on my entire top-25 list.
Belgian outfit Epoch is another excellent example of a modern death metal band that are embracing that old-school aesthetic and using it to create vital, engaging new music. Their debut album Sacrosanct –which the band originally self-released digitally in 2015—will be reissued on CD at the end of January by Lavadome Productions, and fans of bands like Dead Congregation or Vanhelgd will find plenty to like here. In fact, the Dead Congregation influence is so strong that it wouldn’t surprise me if the two bands shared at least one member (Epoch’s web presence is so minimal that there’s no information whatsoever about their members online).
Opening track “To Datechon, ho Katechon” does a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the album: the intro riff alternates short bursts of tremolo-picked notes with dissonant, palm-muted chords while the drums somehow manage to both blast and swing, almost simultaneously. The mid-tempo intro section to “Altered States” has a wicked groove that makes for one of the more compelling musical sections on the record. The slow-building dissonant intro to “Ichneumon” is also a highlight. For me, though, the standout track is album closer ‘Sacrosanct,” which is almost Gorguts-esque in its use of dissonance and dynamics.
If I have one criticism of the album, it’s that I wish they switched tempos a bit more often. Though there are exceptions, for the most part the slower riffs are reserved for the intro sections, while the verse/chorus/etc. riffs all tend to blast away at high speed. Epoch are good enough at what they do that they can get away with following a similar formula for most of the songs, but I wouldn’t mind a bit more variety in the songwriting next time around.