Epitimia is an odd boundary-testing band but one which is also strangely accessible. Nothing I’ve read so far has been quite able to place a finger on their sound. It mixes together elements of the black metal spectrum, particularly the vocals and tremolo guitars, with a bit of catchy doom guitar soloing spliced in and the obligatory use of the word ‘post’ in there somewhere to explain the more free flipping between genres and more ambient passages. Add to that cursory approach to production and it should pretty much be as impenetrable and desperate as it gets. It shouldn’t work. But it does. In fact it works so well that it’s, in parts, ridiculously addictive.
My best shot at drumming up a similar band would be the great but now defunct Lifelover or perhaps ‘post’ black metal bands but that would be to ignore a lot of what Epitimia are up to. One of the elements that I think has the biggest impact is perhaps the most subtle. There is an unmistakably rock influence, particularly in the drums and snares, that serves to calm the whole sound down. For example track six, Epikrisis V: Rorschach Inkblot, sounds as close as anything I’ve come across to a black metal ballad while at the other, more intensely black-meets-doom end, the second track, Epikrisis I: Altered State of Consciousness, has been rattling round in my head since I first heard it (to a whistling down the street level of catchiness). Soaring, ecstatic, funeral doom guitar work and the occasional drifting passage of ambient or choral sounds all shed a bit of light in between the darker elements.
I’m not suggesting that this is revolutionary and I suspect most extreme metal fans will listen to this and draw the same conclusions as I have. But what is impressive is that the diverse forces at work come together so well and you even get some actual songs and varied textures in the deal, albeit in the fairly limited but distinctive range that defines the Epitimia sound. Perhaps the only thing I struggled with was in deciding whether the lo-fi approach to production was born of bravery or from a clinging attachment to the old school of black metal. I had difficulty deciding whether it was really necessary and whether the whole thing may benefit from a finer touch to the process. I suppose my conclusion was that it all comes together despite that and so who am I to argue. The only other issue is that some of the later tracks don’t really move things on either but if you have fallen for the sound by then I don’t think that will matter too much.
I suppose it all comes together under the broad banner of post-black metal but don’t let that put you off if you are already bored to tedium by such dawdlings. This is a much rawer, from the hip experience that doesn’t seem to be trying to live up to genre stereo-types highly recommended for anyone that wants to dip into something that doesn’t fly off the scale in to introspective nonsense but which is a bit more left field than most.
(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)