‘Crawling Out Of The Crypt’
High Roller Records
(Released: 31 October 2014)
One of the lost treasures of the late 1980s / early 1990s Italian ‘spaghetti doom’ movement, Epitaph released three demos back in the day, but never managed a full-length offering. Spin forward 30 years, and here it is, finally! Epitaph turn back the clock with this album, a re-working of dusty old tracks with plenty of modern touches to ensure that it doesn’t sound like a dated vintage novelty.
Opening song ‘Beyond The Mirror’ is a seriously impressive doom metal classic, like a thundering, epic version of early Trouble. Here, the twisting vocals are at their most controlled, the melodies stunning, the chorus unforgettable.
Ultimately, Epitaph do not quite reach those same lofty heights during the eight songs that follow the explosive opener. But there are still plenty of examples of genuine excellence. ‘Battle Of Inside’ is reminiscent of the equally overlooked Averon, or perhaps Chapter VI-era Candlemass, being a tight and solidly-built composition of traditional doom with gentle, understated synthesizer backing.
The keyboards return to great effect in the track ‘Daughters Of Lot’, creating an electric current of excitement each time they appear (and thankfully they re-appear numerous times throughout ‘Crawling Ot Of The Crypt’).
Equal parts energy and enterprise, the song ‘Sacred And Prophane’ is not far behind in terms of enjoyment, although Emiliano Cioffi’s vocals can get rather thin or erratic – a complaint that arises on occasion throughout the album. Also featured is the voice of Gianni Nepi (from fellow Italians Dark Quarterer) which add an extra level of authentic 80s vibe, although again his tones are not to everyone’s tastes.
Initially, the rockier-sounding ‘Loser One’ does not quite fit in, but, as it grows and blossoms, the song demonstrates the band’s adventurous songwriting abilities and willingness to push themselves. Similarly, the rippling bass line that runs through ‘Confuse The Light’ heralds a minor departure in style, but Epitaph have the guile to make it work without losing sight of their doomed core.
Guitarist Lorenzo Loatelli, a relative newcomer who arrived in 2012, adds a dynamic boost to the riffs, delivering enough crunch and heaviness to do justice to music that emanates from an era when metal was metal.
Recorded at the trusty Opal Arts Studio in Verona at the end of 2013, the first master of ‘Crawling Out Of The Crypt’ did not satisfy the band’s critical ear, so they turned to High Roller stalwart Patrick W. Engel, and the results speak for themselves.
A blast from the past they may be, but Epitaph are not exactly crawling from their coffins. More like striding with renewed vigor, while pushing a shopping trolley full of miserable classics. They will surely be warmly welcomed back by dooms fans the world over.