An Epitaph to Tranquility (2009)
Canada, Discorporate Music, Technical Deathgrind
I discovered this album purely by chance about a year ago, scrolling through various tech-death on YouTube, and stumbled across a song from this album. At first, I discarded it. It sounded like someone slurping dried shit through a straw. I then returned to the same song on YouTube a week or so later, with a more open mind, and since then I’m glad I did. I realised the melodies and dissonace behind the vocal insanity. Sitting back and reflecting on various ideas that piqued my curiosity, I realised that this was simply a diverse, unorthodox form of death metal. It’s pretty much musical Marmite however, some comment warriors thought this was the best thing since sliced Brain Drill, and some expressed a rather colourful distaste for the album. But I disregarded them all, and set to work trying to formulate the most basic opinion on this album, and it really has been difficult. But I think I’ve sussed what makes this album what it is.
After some research, I discovered that the album is not available in stores, or anywhere for that matter. It’s only available for download, FOR FREE FROM THE BAND’S OWN WEBSITE. I don’t have a clue what the company that released this is up to now, this is their last known release after an 11 year run starting with Dichotic’s Collapse Into Despair. At least they ended on a high note, and I get a free download, courtesy of the band themselves. That deserves some credit.
Musically, the album is what you make of it; to some it’s an eyesore, to others it’s a sight for sore eyes. I personally think that this is nothing short of a masterpiece. They have just 3 members, as there’s only one guitarist who doubles up as vocalist, then a bassist… and a SECOND VOCALIST!? That’s right. They have 2 vocalists, and use a drum machine. Which is fair enough, since there are double bass patterns that even the likes of Kollias and Maurias would struggle with. The drum patterns often focus on incorporating basic snare rolls as a beat, with a simple bass pedal pushing everything along, which takes some getting used to. Apart from that, once you pick apart bits of snare resonance, the drums are extremely well written. It’s a complete mix ‘n’ match of blasts, gravity rolls, and some serious double pedal work that even the writing of which is worth a medal.
One thing that really stands out to me, within the half-hour of chaos, is the bassist. First off, he’s audible. Also, he follows himself rather than playing follow the leader with the guitarist, like a high-school rebel. But it really works once you pick apart everything else. You can first hear this on A Submergence of Will, but then again on many other songs, especially Feast of the Saints, The Urchin Peel and The Loathsome Ceremony. It’s low, loose and nausea-inducing, and I fucking love it.
The guitars are a technical shred-fest of chromatic runs, and even some slightly terrifying riffs. The Loathsome Ceremony is actually scary, the way it’s written. You have to hear it to believe it. There are even some beautiful tremolo lifts that add a gorgeous new light to the brutality the guitar normally delivers on this album. Architects of Abomination and Feast of the Saints both have one.
The vocals stand out like a sore thumb on this album. It’s just so diverse, from screechy highs to brutal lows, to cricket voices, to gutturals… it has everything. The first proper song, The Splintered Pupil, has a clean high scream (Like Job for a Cowboy’s Entombment of a Machine, only good), a gut-punching low, a guttural, and even an evil laugh, all in the first 20 seconds. There’s even a point in The Splintered Pupil where the vocalists make use of their diversity, changing every half-second to a different style in a quick bridge section. It’s pretty goddamn cool, to say the least.
One thing that NEEDS to be mentioned about this album is breakdowns. No, not deathcore-esque chug-a-lug sections, I mean a death metal breakdown. Something that makes you want to headbang, and uses more than 2 notes. There’s one in pretty much every song on the album, and they all have something different. One includes a quick melody that almost entices vomit to rise from your stomach, despite only being 4 notes long. One has a bar in 5/4, just to throw you off. There are more that contain some perfectly executed harmonics, both artificial and natural, and they all add a new light to the songs.
The things that make this album so listenable on a whole to me, are the fact that there are 2 soft instrumentals, and the fact that the songs are all very short. The longest song is The Urchin Peel at 3 mintues and 48 seconds. The first instrumental, The Obliterating Swarm, is the first song, and mixes a simple piano ostinato with some nicely played atmospheric synth. The second, For Our Fetid Fathers, is a rather beautiful instrumental, that allows one to sift into a dream world, while a beautiful acoustic melody floats over some military trumpets and marching snare, later into the song. Just to boot, The Urchin Peel also has a piano/violin outro, which sounds SO GODDAMN BEAUTIFUL. It’s just an incredible mix on the whole, every song has its own special part that stands out amidst the album.
Overall, this album just rocks. I have nothing more to say to be honest, it’s just a perfect mixture of everything I look for in Death Metal. Fans of truly unorthodox death metal/deathgrind binds like Brain Drill or Mitochondrion, this one’s for you. To those who listen and disapprove, come back to it in a week or so. You’ll be surprised.