Epoch – Epoch

I hesitate to call Epoch’s self-titled ’96 release a demo. The word ‘demo’ implies that the band is seeking a label or greater recognition, and is thus ‘demonstrating’ their music. Perhaps they were, but the terminology seems rather unfitting because I think that in 1996, when this was released, there wasn’t a label in the world who’d be willing to release the sort of music here, or at least not in the completely raw and stripped-down form that it is. Even today this is the sort of thing that would be released on 35 CDrs on some unknown label out of Pakistan.

As has been stated before by another reviewer, the easiest reference point for the music here is to describe it as a black metal interpretation of Voivod. The resemblance is essentially inescapable. One of the things that made Voivod’s music so interesting was that it wasn’t quite techno, not quite industrial, but it had that definite flair of ‘science fiction’ to it, which is also present on this demo. Many of the same musical techniques are employed as well: the somewhat groovy bass/drum playing that never quite gets up to full speed, opting for a midpaced, almost stoner trip through the dark realms of outer space, and the guitar which is almost entirely used for effects and texture rather than any full-fledged riffs. Bass instead fills that role, with a selection of almost funky riffs that are still measurably metal in style. The vocals are the obvious departure point: in this case, a black metal shriek very much like what could be heard on the first Gorgoroth LP, Donald Duck inflection and all.

The demo is quite clearly supposed to represent a journey into space: the numerous small stretches of ambiance and effects-laden compositions can attest to that. The production, however, is another contributing factor, with that ‘listening through a wall’ sort of murk that you would hear on a Wartanas record. All the instruments are clear, but thick and tranquilized like on early Dub Buk, but this murk helps develop the atmosphere of the musical space. There are numerous whooshing and drifting sound effects, and the majority of this music truly sounds like it’s supposed to be more the soundtrack to an arthouse space opera than a heavy metal demo. On that note, it is metal, or at least tangentially; it’s not pure by any respect (the rock influence deals with that handily), but it does fall within the constraints of the genre.

Though it’s not really something that I would ever listen to for real fun, it’s most certainly interesting. I like the various vocal distortions, with mid-paced, gradual pitch shifting making hisses turn into activating rocket engines, or guitars with strange flanging effects suddenly becoming the rings encircling some distant planet; there’s much more in the way of sounds than notes, like a less openly hostile version of ‘Obscura’, but with a greater groove and general sense of musicality than that album as well. I’d say the stoner influence here is stronger than you might think: the whole demo feels pretty drugged out, like an acid trip just verging on bad but not quite crossing the line, just resulting in dark, moody, and vaguely disturbing images of absolute solitude in the universe and perfect spatial emptiness. Sleep goes into space, perhaps, with some hallucinogens along for the ride.

You’re probably never going to hear this. If you do, you’re probably not going to love it. But as a curiosity, I can’t think of something much better. Strange, small releases like these are something I take a special delight in, and for those of us that love exploring the dustiest nooks and crannies of the metal scene, I can’t think of a much better example than this. It’s not music that can really be graded on a level of basic ‘quality’, but if I must pass some sort of judgment, I’ll say that it does pretty much exactly what it sets out to do.


~ by noktorn on August 27, 2007.

One Response to “Epoch – Epoch”

  1. Kool writing! Voivod and Epoch rule!

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