Epitimia – (Un)reality (Hypnotic Dirge)

Sunday, 9th March 2014
Rating: 9/10

The joys of the Internet age have done many things, for better or worse.  Put one in the win category though for simple distribution access for smaller bands through sites like Bandcamp.  While foraging through the massive amounts of material there, occasionally you can find a real diamond in the rough.  Epitimia is the latest diamond discovered by this writer, a Russian black metal band that explores post-rock, ambient, electronics, and jazz through its metal filter.

(Un)reality is a concept album of sorts, about a hero who is stuck in a limbo-like existence, every day infinite and artificial, who has dreams of images, flashbacks, and reminiscence of former lives.  If that isn’t trippy enough,  (Un)reality is a double album, with one disc focusing on dark (“Delusion”) and the other on light (“Illusion”).  Both discs feature an intro and outro track, with the remainder of the tracks as pieces of the Delusion/Illusion theme.  With almost two hours of material, ambitious doesn’t begin to describe the journey taken by the listener.  Unfortunately, the lyrics are all in Russian, but it doesn’t detract from the overall emotion of the album.

Delusion is the heavier of the two albums, though it features a saxophone in a major role throughout the disc.  While enjoyable, the riffs aren’t a major player on the Delusion disc (with a few notable exceptions), relegating many of the interesting parts to the saxophone, giving an otherwise melodic black album a decidedly jazzy tone in spots.  The material here feels more urgent and energized than the Illusion disc, with “Mors Putativa” even starting things out with some furious blast beats.  These heavier moments never feel out of place, even when directly countered by some acoustic guitar work (“Ataraxia”); aiding in keeping the pace of the album more interesting.

Illusion sees the jazz saxophone take a few steps back, taking the more crushing edge of the band with it, and explores more post-black territory.  The female vocals of M are featured on a number of tracks, feeling more ambient and ethereal in tone and a decidedly good match with the more mild and relaxed pacing of Illusion.  While black metal still runs throughout, tracks like “Foretime” almost free more post-rock than anything else.  The guitar work here is more caring in offering up some gorgeous melodies along the way.  The final few tracks (“Fracture” and “Catharsis”) do an exceptional job of setting up emotions of majesty and hope (amid one excellent moment of black metal fury), while the outro “Rebirth” takes the electronic route, allowing the listener to come down from their lengthy journey in ease.

Make no mistake, the first few listens of (Un)reality may appear daunting.  In the end though, Epitimia’s ability to mesh their influences will enrapture the listener.  Anyone into the more avant-garde end of the black metal spectrum should seek this one out.  (Un)reality begs to be heard and examined.

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