French extreme/death metallers Epitaphe released their three-song demo via Chaos Records in January this year. So, three songs, that should be a very short affair, right? Well, not at all – playing times vary between 10 and 18(!) minutes, summing up to about 40 minutes of total running time.
First up is the shortest track, entitled The Downward Stream. Epitaphe don’t fiddle around with any melodic intro but get right to it with aggressive drums and quite extreme guitar riffs. The production is quite raw, and from the info leaflet you can gather that the entire demo was mixed and mastered on analogue equipment from the 70s. Interesting enough, though, this actually works quite well in underlying the somber atmosphere created around mid-way through the track, where Epitaphe undertake an excursion towards doom metal territory. A more melodic outro then closes off this song. Next up is Embers, starting off with the melodic intro that was missing from The Downward Stream. This is one long tunnel of misery and despair that the guys generate here – doom mixed with dark metal passages, and deep growling all the way through. Very desolate in atmosphere, but well done regarding musicianship. Then comes the 18-minute monster with Smouldering Darkness. Some radio statics at the beginning before we get another doom metal track, blended with death and dark metal influences. So, funnily enough, this track is rather alike Embers, but quite different than The Downward Stream, making it hard for me to pinpoint a definitive musical direction or trademark sound. This track has a soft outro, which has some interlude, just like a last rearing, before the demo ends for good.
In conclusion: Epitaph’s demo is another take at death metal, with influences from extreme, doom and dark metal in each song. Still, as I just laid out, it’s actually very hard to point out a definitive category for their sound, so if you’re a fan of any of these genres, then you should check it out. What I really like is that the guys manage to create, and maintain, a very dark atmosphere throughout the entire playing time. Still, with around 40 minutes of total running time, the demo is comparable to some full-length albums – and in here lies my criticism: the songs sometimes feel a tad too drawn out. 18 minutes for one song is just too long, sorry guys! So if there’s one thing I could wish for, then it would be that they shorten the songs a bit, to get even more to the point. Still, this demo is a promising start and I am looking forward to hearing more from them! 8/10.