Death-metal quartet Æpoch walk the line between melodicism and brutality. Their 2021 EP, Hiraeth, is a force to be reckoned with. While the EP remains heavily shrouded in the underground metal scene, Hiraeth is both a formidable and ambitious release.
The EP is a partial contender in the realm of legendary metal acts like Atheist, Cynic and Morbid Angel.
Though reminiscent of classic death metal, Æpoch execute remarkable style and originality on all fronts. It is conceptually driven, telling a post-apocalyptic tale through its lyrics.
The protagonist, suffering amnesia, is propelled into a tormented universe where a possessed monolith controls the minds of its victims. This disconcerting tale is affectionately expressed through eerie dissonance, blasting drums and pretty dope guitar solos.
Listeners may notice that the bass guitar is just slippin’ and slidin’ all over the place—this effect is because there are no frets on the bass guitar. Thus, typically segmented bass notes are streamlined into a smooth and buttery succession. Real smooth. Milky, even.
The five-track EP opens with “Atonement.” Æpoch open with a relatively mid-paced instrumental track that serves as an introduction to their overall sound.
They choose to establish their style for the listener instead of playing endeless and bewildering technical riffs.
Using melodicism and songwriting to establish sure-footing from the beginning is tasteful and directs listeners to expect a bigger picture to unravel.
The second track, “Amnesia,” opens with massive, chugging riffs and huge drums. Guttural vocals make their mark as the first words, roar from the pits of this bizarre concept-world.
The cadence of the vocals is almost operatic—though, instead of being sung with the classically trained charm of a soprano’s voice, they are vehemently belched.
Track three, “Overwrought”, is an ethereal ode featuring blasphemous chanting and meticulous guitars.
Otherworldly riffs shine through a complex and spastic rhythm section. Some parts of the song travel into blackened metal-core territory, taking influence from bands like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir.
Which brings us to track four: “The Flesh Totem.” This track incorporates a sludgy element to the EP, opening with a mesmerizing arrangement of octaves that morph into spacy arpeggios.
Guitar solos are tossed back and forth between players before the audial freefall ends abruptly.
It is safe to assume that Æpoch is referencing their storied monolith when using the term “Flesh Totem”.
The last track is “Hiraeth,” a thrash-infused, death-metal boasting an eclectic mix of all of the sounds on this album.
It is an anxious composition with claustrophobic riffs and very little space between notes before a fretless bass-guitar solo delves the song into a nauseating tail-spin.
The instrumentals on this track ride a curious-sounding wave before the track straight-up fades out. It is so rare to hear a fade-out in music these days that I feel it’s worth mentioning.
Metal is alive and well in the region and Æpoch are an example of one-such band that has established themselves within an ever-changing scene.
Their unique blend of inter-metal styles is concisely interpreted throughout the entire EP, demonstrating a strong approach to songwriting and emphasis on cohesion.
Æpoch has a clear goal in mind and operates as an effective unit. Their passion and skill serve as the driving force behind this record.