Artist: Epoch Of Unlight
Album Title: At War With The Multiverse
Label: Dark Horizon Records
Date of Release: 16 September 2022
Out of a silent 17-year void come Epoch Of Unlight, ready to unleash their first new material since 2005’s ‘The Continuum Hypothesis’. Formed way back in 1990, when I was still vey much in short trousers and obsessed with Tranformers and He-Man, the Tennessee-based melodic blackened death metal band went on to record three albums in the ensuing decade-and-a-half. However, due to a combination of burn-out and a desire to pursue other of life’s offerings, the band scaled right back but never fully receded from view. Over the years, the line-up was tinkered with, but finally, in 2021, the quintet headed into the studio to record album number four, ‘At War With The Multiverse’.
Epoch Of Unlight circa 2022 is comprised of lead vocalist Scott Baggett, guitarists John Fortier and Jash Braddock, bassist Joe Totty, and drummer Tino LoSicco. Whilst I’ll admit to never being an ardent fan back in the day, it is always nice to see the return of a band after such a long period out of the game. It is always that bit more pleasing when the return brings with it a product of quality too, as ‘At War With The Multiverse’ certainly is. It took me a little while to warm to it, with my initial feelings being mainly apathy, but subsequent spins ensured that this initial opinion was some way off the mark.
As the description above explains eloquently, Epoch Of Unlight dabble in the realms of extreme metal that blends black, death, and thrash together, adding a very small pinch of prog, and a larger dollop of melody into the recipe to create what has become quite an edifying and entertaining sound that stretches out over 44 minutes or so within ten individual tracks.
It might only last a smidge over two minutes, but ‘The Anthropocene’ kicks the album off in scintillating style, full of aggression, speed, and technicality. The swirling guitar leads lend the maelstrom of sound a more memorable edge, but it’s the meaty riffs that serve as the song’s crucial ingredient.
It is clear that these Americans mean business here, attempting to make up for lost time, but if we were to consider the opener as a flash in the pan, think again. ‘The Numbing Stillness’ maintains the intensity with some sumptuous blastbeats, swirling thrash-infused death metal riffing, and deep snarling growls from Baggett. It’s deceptively catchy too, as subsequent spins attest with a melodic groove lurking beneath the surface awaiting discovery, in a not-too-dissimilar way to ‘Heartwork’-era Carcass amongst others.
A synth-heavy sci-fi intro lends an other worldly hue to the early stages of ‘Wrath Of The Cryomancer’, but it is soon back on the attack for Epoch Of Unlight, with some cracking riffs and a rhythm section that’s on fire. There’s an occasional prog-like foray here and there, but There’s an occasional prog-like foray here and there, as well as a quieter, more atmospheric sequence after the halfway stage but otherwise it’s an intense affair that refuses to withdraw its claws.
Having delved back into the past to re-educate myself on the early Epoch sound, I would suggest that ‘At War With The Multiverse’ sees a dialling down of the black metal elements of their sound in favour of a greater death/thrash mash-up. This will either please you or leave you feeling disappointed depending on your tastes but, for what it’s worth, I don’t think the album suffers at all. And it isn’t as if the black metal has disappeared entirely, as tracks like ‘The Amaranthine Line’ audibly demonstrates. Here, there’s an injection of atmosphere, some lovely dissonant chords, as well as plenty of drum and guitar exuberance, including some killer sweep-picking that’s impressively swift and flamboyant.
If I could level any meaningful criticism at this album, it would be that some of the tracks lack a truly killer blow, be it a hook, a groove, or something else to make them truly stand out. ‘Beneath A Dying Sun’ is one of my very favourites on the record but that’s no accident, as it’s easily one of the catchiest to feature here. ‘Elysian Immortals’ on the other hand though, for all its chaotic menace and all-out speed, doesn’t beguile me in quite the same way. Ironic then that this is one of the songs on this album that most closely resembles their early output.
I am certain that there is enough about ‘At War With The Multiverse’ to suggest that it will sit very well with those that worshipped at the altar of Epoch Of Unlight first time around, some two decades or so ago. Indeed, even as someone less invested in them, I still find an awful lot to enjoy on this album. It will almost certainly feature within many an end-of-year ‘best of’ list, but for all its enjoyable qualities, it doesn’t do quite enough for me to push it over the edge into greatness. Nevertheless, check it out, because I may be doing Epoch a disservice and you might absolutely love it.
The Score of Much Metal: 88%