Following up on their critically acclaimed 2015 release Body Matter, Epilogue, like its’ predecessor, is part of what vocalist Kyle Bandt comments as ‘the final conceptual instalment in a three part series containing transcribed diary entries written from the perspective of a reflective mind.’
Reflective, indeed. But also powerful and grandiose. Bringing in the right tropes from Deftones, ISIS (the band, obviously) and also smatterings of hard rocking prog such as Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus, the EP ultimately dishes out a solid serving of space-bound prog in four short bites.
“Shells” begins with a brief rainy intro, punctuated with an Eastern tinge of chanting and twanging mandolin, before launching straight into a vast, sludgy intro not unlike those found on Neur-Isis style post-metal. What differentiates ALW are the powerful and soulful vocals of Bandt, who weaves a melodic tinge to the powerful crashing of the doomy, brooding but melodic first track. As the chords trickle down the tonal ladder, the song fades from Swallow-The-Sun-esque clean chords and distorted bass into the second track.
Keep that ambient engine running with the outro following straight into “Chemical Drive”, which pensively plays with some almost-but-quite dissonant chords with an almost bluesy feel. The subtle but driving bluesy rhythm section kicks in, something you’ll notice unique to their brand. Much like ISIS, there is an interplay between the chasm of power chords, tremolo and arpeggio and the very shuffling feel of drummer Nick Sloan. The subtle but punctuating rolls and snare fills keep the pulse ahead, locked in tightly with bassist Andy Schiller, who stays true to the bottom end but isn’t afraid to experiment around the neck with tasteful deviations.
Something I notice, perhaps from my own perception, is that this band is one who enjoys standing on the precipice of the crushing crescendo of many post-metal bands, preferring to reel it back in before things get too loud. This allows Bandt to croon and soar in and out of the song uninterrupted, giving consistency to the expansive and thoughtful lyrics.
Whilst yearning for a heavier breakdown at times, I am aware during my listen that this is due to my own ridiculous overplaying of bands like Cult of Luna, Neurosis and others, who make sure the climax hammers you. Like Breaking Orbit from Australia, this Kentucky quintet are happy to keep things a little more subdued but no less powerful for it.
Speaking of, the electronica-washed keys and NASA-like samples of “Surrounded by Astronauts” harken back to spacefaring albums such as Salvation by The Cult themselves. ALW do well to move beyond these influences without playing to the post-metal-tropes. With a punchy and consistent drum and bass stomp, things begin to take on a harder-rocking feel. The building of pace continues, suddenly dissipating into a sea of synth around the middle mark before being cautiously realigned back into trajectory with a faint tremolo ascent, all the while being pushed back into view by vocals that would entice Chino Moreno into a proud nodding of his blonde-dyed, spiky-haired head.
Once again, a space-faring intro compounds alongside a steady bass beat to the first stage of “An Educated Gentleman.” Vocals begin to reach out further, soaring higher than in previous tracks to great effect. ‘Rings around you/ Circled by skin’; lyrically, this album does an effective job of touching on both galactic and personal themes, adding to the overall aesthetic. Drum and bass work together on a shuffling, bluesy rhythm, interplaying with slides and cautious leads. Prayer bowls reiterate the shamanic atmosphere of the intro, bringing the album full circle.
“Epilogue” treats us to an epic adventure to close off the three-part series. Where the scene has often been flooded with post-rock and post-metal prog bands treading close to the party line of their former leaders, ALW rebrand themselves with a wider array. Perhaps my only criticism of the album is that some of these build-ups could be taken further into heavier territory, coalescing in a wall of sound we almost come to expect. But then again, that’s also part of the appeal – they know what they want, what they employ and do it well.