Classic 80’s style Heavy/Doom Metal anyone? From an Italian band that were there the first time but have only just got around to re-recording their best tracks? A band that dress in silver pointy hats, fake Spock ears, skin-tight cropped pink T-shirts with kilts and flip-flops, have a pet dog called Fidoccine and go on tour in a lime green Reliant Robin Three wheeler? Well I’m sorry, I can’t deliver the third one, but if you like the sound of the first two then it’s your lucky day…even if you are gutted about the omission of the Reliant Robin…
Epitaph were one of the unsigned Italian Doom bands (the luckier ones to acquire a record deal included Sacrilege and Black Hole) of the late 80’s, who produced well received demos, big on the tape-trading circuit, but never really able to take the next step. I have a vague memory of a mate of mine playing me their first demo in about 1989, and I seem to remember thinking they sounded like a poorly produced version of Solitude Aeturnus or Candlemass. Which is a pretty good place to start on their description really, as there are still elements of both of those bands in the music and in the theatricality of the vocal delivery – though over-all sound-wise they come across not a million miles away from the recent “As Above, So Below” album by Angel Witch.
There’s enough of a more modern Heavy/Doom sound to please fans of, say, Witchcraft (‘The Battle Of Inside’ has similar time changes and over-all feel), but on the whole I did mainly find myself thinking of Count Raven and St. Vitus through to early Trouble and the aforementioned Solitude Aeturnus (+ Candlemass with Robert Lowe). This isn’t slow Doom, it has many up-tempo parts (classic Heavy Metal really), slotted around heavy riff-driven plods, as was more the style back in the day. None of the songs sound dated, though thanks to the current climate they could also pass as “Retro” – but I’m not sure you can be retro if you were around originally, you are just being you…from then! The band has also kept it’s Italian-ness – it’s flair, it’s flamboyance, it’s disregard for what is ‘cool’ musically or vocally – it just does it’s thing, the way the songs were initially intended. Which shows the band were either just a few years too late or very unlucky not to get signed the first time around.
No song stands out as being massively different from another, because there is a real flow and continuity to the album which is a great achievement for songs that were written over a period of years. Every song is over 6 minutes long too which lends them a more epic quality and kind of allows each song to really stretch it’s legs and evolve. The similarity of style to recent Angel Witch (that I keep returning to) just backs up it’s relevance to a current audience as well as 80’s Doom officianados. It’s great that these tracks have been updated and are available to a wider audience – and given the feel of the whole project, the ltd. vinyl might just be on my future shopping list too (not least because the vinyl bonus track is a fabulous creepy semi-acoustic track with a killer solo!)
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)