Canadians. Like ourselves, often stereotyped as the Nice Guys™ of the world, and with good cause. Generally peaceful, affable and lovely people, who also seem to be incredibly good at making heavy music. Canucks Æpoch follow in the death metal steps of contemporaries such as Kataklysm and Beyond Creation, bands which weave a significant amount of melody into their brutal formulae.
Speaking of formulae, the aesthetic of ‘Awakening Inception’ calculates note-precise, on-a-dime riffs weaved amongst lyrics decrying the futility of fighting against empirical science, and the force of entropic decay. ‘Time: Perspective (Ouroboros Reborn)’ fits perfectly in sync with both ideals, pounding a hard stop/start riff before launching straight into classic-era The Haunted/At The Gates single-string fretboard gymnastics. An absolutely delicious bass tone cuts through the mix and over the like-clockwork drumming to provide a rock-solid rhythmic backing. From there, it’s deep death growls against a heavier Nevermore thrash break before we’re thrown at a wall of a breakdown, hard and fast – ‘A GOLDEN RATIO!’ they proclaim with mighty roars.
‘Delirium of Negation’ kicks in immediately afterward with a melodeath riff, again straight out of the early 90s. Those piercing shrieks remind me so much of underrated melodic death metallers Dagon that I actually had to do a double-take to make sure – that’s not a bad thing. High-tempo pulsating drums drop out into a well of blasts, arpeggiations of guitar and bass warping around them like snakes. A dual vocal attack on the high and low register keeps things varied and, after a tasty little bass solo, we’re treated to a punchy, bluesy and shred-worthy solo. This relentless fervour across a melodic template reminds me of The Black Dahlia Murder and Xenoblight in that they convey what could be construed as brutal melodic death metal.
Brutal, melodic, death metal. That’s the key point here. You’re not copping safe generic fare, nor a virtuoso tech-death massacre. Instead, ‘Expiration’ sets a nastily nice tone with frantic slides up and down the neck, bass and guitars diving and soaring. We see the chorus in this song actually pushing it up a notch, blasting speedily before backing down into jazzy, groovy bass and drum solos and a guitar solo that sounds almost Egyptian. Then – slam! The breakdown gives way to face-ripping soloing and screams of ‘Giver and taker of life!’
They’re really making an existential point in the lyrics on this album. Take ‘Tabula Rasa’, literally meaning ‘blank slate’. Ironically, the song itself bears a very formulaic intro, textbook melodic death metal tones sounding applied from template. Not that it’s bad sounding; thankfully we’re soon snapped out of it by a harsh wall of blasting, shrieking and off-kilter drum rolls and time signatures. Tremolo and power chord chugs trade off each other before melting away to some quiet, funky snare stick-hits and that Egyptian feeling soloing again, albeit with dual guitars. ‘Open your mind! Witness yourself!’
See? Even when Canadians are screaming at you, they mean what’s best for you. Look how peaceful Devin Townsend turned out.
Æpoch show little sign of chilling out completely just yet, however, even with the cautious, bend-and-echo heavy light footfalls of ‘Mentally Raped by Christ’. I’m sensing an agenda here… this could be any generic black metal song title, right? But I digress. Big open chords pave the way for huge guitar dive-bombs, pinch harmonics and all other manner of fancy fretboard work. Low and high shrieks flit between these passages like kids playing in traffic, adding to the feel of urgency. We see a return to the opening riff and, just when my attention briefly wanes the band plows through much faster and more unhinged soloing, a frantic stop/start breakdown and tricky drum and bass trade-offs.
The next couple of tracks follow on the exact same trend, really. Not in a way that detracts too far from being enjoyable, however. Consider the deeper, almost ‘Deliverance’-era Opeth growls that permeate through the similar membranes of ‘Burn Them At The Stakes’. Tasty soloing, bass sweeps and interesting fills behind the kit keep this track just far aheaf of standard melodic death formula so as to be interesting. ‘Serenity of Non-Existence’, another ode to universal nihilism carries in much the same tack; a technical melodic-verging-on-brutal death assault where individual instruments weave in and out of the tapestry with enough voicing to spice things up a little.
Then it’s on to the title track. ‘Awakening Inception’ throws everything into the bucket right from the get go; a hard rocking riff, lead-heavy dual soloing, palm-muted chug-a-thons, blasts and tremolo. That’s all within the first minute or so – things only progress from there. Utilising time signatures that one might construe as ‘djent’ (sigh), the song throws riffs fast and hard at you, deliberately stuttering and off-balance like Charlie Sheen on a seven-gram rock. Topped off with crazy solos and a meaty breakdown finisher, this one’s a razorwire stab to the guts, and a really nice penultimate track.
There isn’t much to be said about ‘Karmasphyxiation’ that doesn’t fit elsewhere in this album’s analysis, really. Deftly skilful hands on each of the instruments manipulating and reshaping what is (if you ask me) one of the most generic templates – Straight Outta Gothenburg, yo. As before, it’s the cranking up of speed, harsh vocal attack and insistently choppy riffs that breathe a bit more life into the closer, rattling off with some simple industrial-sounding samples.
If you’re sick to death of the seven-millionth local band at your local metal dive bar copying and pasting riffs straight from Sweden and yearn for something that pushes that harmonic flair into slightly more brutal territory, I recommend this one for a spin.
Get the new album HERE!