Monday, February 16, 2015

…walking off with your soul: EPITAPH – ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt’

By all rights Italy’s Epitaph should be a household name amongst the doomed devout considering that bassist Nicola Murari and drummer Mauro Tollini are former members of influential progressive doom weirdos Black Hole. Murari (as Nicholas Murray) and Tollini (as Luther Gordon) both appeared on Black Hole’s 1985 cult classic debut, ‘Land of Mystery,’ an album that stands as one of the genre’s earliest and most unique recordings. Perhaps what is most interesting about Epitaph, besides their legacy, is that with their debut, ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt,’ the band has reigned in most of the progressive elements that made Black Hole so unique. Epitaph, for the most part, are playing it safe on their debut, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the band doesn’t have an edge. Though ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt’ is a slightly more straight-forward traditional doom album than what the members recorded with Black Hole it is nonetheless masterfully executed and pulses with a distinctive atmosphere all its own.

Joining the esteemed duo is vocalist Emiliano Cioffi and guitarist Lorenzo Loatelli. Cioffi’s vocals are a major component of Epitaph’s sound and, like many traditional doom singers, his vocals are theatrical and unique while he thankfully avoids the distraction of being too over-the-top. The closest frame of reference for his delivery and style would be Dawn of Winter’s Gerrit P. Mutz or even, at times, Scott Reagers. Cioffi delivers a particularly schizophrenic and unhinged performance on stand-out track “Sacred and Prophane.” Loatelli, likewise, is definitely a part of Epitaph’s slightly surreal take on traditional doom metal. Loatelli’s riffs are definitely doom oriented, but he also has a metallic edge and, at times, lets loose and shreds. The album’s second track, “Ancient Rite,” highlights Loatelli’s dexterity and skill.

Though ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt’ is more straight-forward than anything Black Hole ever recorded, the album is far from being void of shadowy atmospherics and dingy, sepulchral overtones. The combination of Cioffi’s vocals and tastefully placed synthesizers, among other sound effects, contributes to the overall ambiance of the album. The synthesizers often provide an ethereal, spacey effect like on “Daughters of Lot” or “Confuse the Light,” but can also create the chilling background ambiance found on “Sacred and Profane.”

Fans of traditional doom, particularly of the unique stylings of Italian doom, will find much to appreciate with Epitaph’s ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt.’ Though the band isn’t quite as progressive as Black Hole or The Black there is no shortage of hooks. It’s an expertly executed doom metal album that tackles a variety of themes ranging from the occult to internal struggle and misery. Though Epitaph were first formed in the late eighties following the initial demise of Black Hole it has taken the band nearly three decades to record and release their debut. ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt’ is a welcome addition to the canon of Italian Doom and would fit in nicely among classic releases from Black Hole, Requiem, or Paul Chain, and contemporary artists such as Doomraiser, Night Gaunt, or Bretus.


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