Album Title: Awakening Inception
Label: Independent Release
Date Of Release: 13 April 2018
Billed as the most unlucky of all days, Friday 13th is supposed to be a day that all superstitious humans fear, a day where everything is supposed to go wrong. You’d therefore think that musicians, some of the most superstitious creatures on Earth by nature, would try to avoid coinciding Friday 13th with an album launch.
Not so in 2018, as there has been a huge glut of records released on Friday 13th April that I’m currently working my way through. And now it is the turn of Æpoch, a Canadian progressive death metal band from Cambridge, Ontario, to stand under my microscope and squirm under my close scrutiny. The album, entitled ‘Awakening Inception’, is the debut studio release from the quartet of Greg Carvalho (drums), Kyle Edissi (guitars), Brett MacIntosh (bass, lead vocals) and Taylor Wroblewski (guitars).
I used the word squirm in the previous paragraph but actually, it would have been more accurate to use the phrase ‘stand firm’ because ‘Awakening Inception’ is a mightily impressive debut outing. This is death metal of a very high calibre that throws in plenty of different influences but also manages to sound wonderfully fresh, invigorating and exciting.
The first thing that catches my ear is the bass of Brett MacIntosh. It is prominent in the mix with an unusual clarity. Normally the bass is the one instrument to suffer, rendered often inaudible within the overall production. Not so here, as just about every note can be heard, often rising above the brutal tumult that surrounds it. MacIntosh’s playing deserves the attention too, because it is really inventive, full of clever ideas and extremely fluid, with a musicality that’s rare. I’m reminded of the likes of Cynic and Troy Tipton of Cynthesis/Zero Hour when I focus on the bass playing – hopefully MacIntosh will see this as a compliment.
I’m also a big fan of the guitar work from Kyle Edissi and Taylor Wroblewski. Where necessary, the riffs are thick and heavy as they should be within the death metal genre, often harking back to latter-day Death and other luminaries of the scene. Additionally, the duo also delivers plenty of slick and technical material, and lots of glorious shredding, not to mention an abundance of flamboyant lead breaks and solos. I’m a sucker for guitar histrionics and so this album is right up my street in that respect. I certainly hear echoes of thrash in the riffs as well as hints of melodeath and NWOBHM also, meaning that we’re kept on our toes as we listen.
With so much going on, the content of ‘Awakening Inception’ could have ended up sounding messy, unfocussed and lacking in direction. Fortunately, the song writing is strong enough to withstand such criticism. In fact, if anything, the ten tracks all sound confident, assured and collectively these four musicians clearly don’t lack confidence. I’ve yet to mention drummer Greg Carvalho, but he more than holds his own in Æpoch, providing a thunderous and technically adept rhythmic backbone to the music, especially when he hits warp speed, as demonstrated within the uncompromising brutality of the equally uncompromisingly-named ‘Mentally raped By Christ’.
Of all the elements at play here, it is the vocals of MacIntosh that are perhaps the least impressive ingredient. There is nothing wrong with either his higher-pitched rasping delivery or his lower, gravelly growl. Equally though, it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.
Whilst on the honesty train, I have to concede that the second half of ‘Awakening Inception’ doesn’t quite hit the same heights as the first. Again I’m being picky because the quality doesn’t dip all that much – it is more a case of the second half suffering because of the brilliance of what precedes it.
To illustrate my point, ‘Time – Perspective (Ouroborous Reborn)’ kicks the record off like something possessed. The groove is electric, the complexity is mind-boggling at times especially when delivered at the pace it is. The bass and guitars dance with an effervescent quality and as a way to introduce yourselves onto the technical death metal stage, this is perfect.
The contrast between this and its follow-up is marked. Whereas the opener is a brutal, complex and intense affair, ‘Delirium of Negation’ is a much more melodic affair. It still possesses an incredible technicality but it is heavily tempered by more in the way of atmospherics and, dare I say it, immediacy. The bass-work is out of the top draw, so eloquent and sophisticated, whilst the guitars are a joy to listen to, going off on expansive, extended solos that are fast, melodically charged and utterly marvellous.
‘The Expiration’ has a demonstrably greater progressive feel, accentuated by the extended instrumental passage dominated by something approaching a bass solo. The guitar solos are insane once again, but in a very good way; lightning fast, dextrous and exuberant. ‘Tabula Rasa’ on the other hand is another superb song that brings the NWOBHM influences to the fore within a few of the riffs, albeit fleetingly. Again, there is a fascinating mid-song bass-led interlude where proceedings are momentarily becalmed but the pace soon picks up, interspersed with some gratifying groove and more lead guitar flamboyance.
As I said earlier, I have found myself to be very impressed with ‘Awakening Inception’. For a debut release, it demonstrates a maturity that’s commendable. But more importantly, this bunch of Canadians have not been afraid to cut loose, ultimately delivering an album full of heart, no small amount of skill and a great blend of the old and the new. And, in so doing, Æpoch have breathed new life into the technical progressive death metal genre.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse