Anonymous UK collective, Epiphanic Truth, are proof once more that progressive metal is a genre of poets and philosophers, just like pre-unification Germany in the eighteenth century. But the musicians in this band are unlikely to embrace militarism, nor do they espouse the venerable ‘blood and soil’ attachment of black metal or the callow misanthropy of death metal, despite drawing inspiration from both. “As much of the ‘Liberal world’ lurches towards the right, modernity encourages the development of dark triad tendencies,” says the press release. If you hadn’t already done so, that means put the Hegel books away and let Epiphanic Truth disabuse you of the folly of the human ego.
Three songs spread over forty-three minutes can sometimes baffle the listener, especially in the realm of progressive metal. But Epiphanic Truth operate in a borderland where post-metal meets the avant-garde extremes of Akercocke and Imperial Triumphant. Subtle repetition and grinding guitars pulsate like evening rituals superseding the banality of daytime. Opener, ‘The Truth of the Beast’ tackles the first of the triadic themes, taking psychopathy as its subject. The lyrics read like a unique take on the ‘Why the Worst Get on Top’ treatise by Friedrich von Hayek from his seminal book, The Road to Serfdom. “We could not stay quietly in our chambers/ Whether by nurture or our nature/ Countless individuals cast salt upon the soil/ Seeking to negate innumerable seeds,” lament the band in a tenor harmony. You might need six listens to make sense of the virtuosic chaos before the band settle into a Inter Arma contemplation of ringing guitars and ear-screeching feedback at the five-minute mark. The first segment is pure Anaal Nathrakh mixed with atmospheric black metal and the technicality of Between the Buried and Me. The second part is a dirge of dissonant chords and rumbling bass guitar. Blink, and they’ve already moved on to a three-minute finale of psychedelic jazz to close the song in style. You’re right to utter those immortal words under your breath: “What the fuck?”
‘An Inescapable Verdict’ explores the theme of narcissism and its detrimental impact on those that rule us. At the heart of the music, is a message that the strong will always enslave the weak unless the human species can emancipate itself from the capricious tyrants that control society. Democracy is no different. Coupled with the liberal capitalist order, is there a system that creates more of a divide between the haves and have-nots? Here, Epiphanic Truth explore the metallic jazz of Five the Hierophant and mix it with the avant-garde misanthropy of Imperial Triumphant. It may sound challenging, but the composition is subtle in its sophistication. The same riff carries the song through eleven minutes of eerie atmospherics and hypnotic tom drum patterns. You’ll scratch your head and wonder where you’ve heard this before – Triptykon’s last record is perhaps the nearest comparison. Or think of it from another perspective: This could be the score for a future Lars von Trier film if he decides to expand his depression trilogy beyond 2013’s Nymphomaniac.
Like all great records, Epiphanic Truth save the best to last. You might wince at the twenty-two minutes of running time, but ‘Our Vile Roots Flourish Beyond Light’ is the quintessential composition of this album. The first two minutes take the ambience and anxiety of Nine Inch Nail’s The Fragile and segue into a rumination of distorted bass and octave slides like the latest LP from The Ocean. The theme here is Machiavellianism and the way it degrades the masses as the plaything of ambitious princelings. The band go deep into black metal territory and demonic vocals and sail through tempo changes with the same expertise as Akercocke. This is transcendental music of the highest calibre, like Dawnwalker. It becomes clear that the greatest charade Epiphanic Truth ever pulled was convincing you that they have no structure – they do. Tune your ear to the way in which they reset at the fourteen-minute mark with a simple palm-muted passage and use a crescendo of keyboards to bring about the final climax of doom metal posturing. All you emerging art-house filmmakers out there: this is a song that’s crying out for your experimental imagination. It might be the closest you get to capturing the abyss.
The band tell us their only ambition is never to play live. Perhaps they should alter that modest goal to writing album of the year on their next effort. As a debut record, this is a majestic outing and one that will achieve a cult following in the years to come.
Release Date: 21/05/2021
Record Label: Church Road Records
Standout track: Our Vile Roots Flourish Beyond Light
Suggested Further Listening: Dawnwalker – Ages (2020), Inter Arma – Sulphur English (2019), Imperial Triumphant – Alphaville (2020)