The debut album from Epectase, 2019’s Astres, was a case of an album maybe being just a bit too much. Built upon a foundation of black metal and prog rock – already a combination with potential for spiralling into all sorts of different, dizzying places – the album then threw in a whole host of other elements, all of which held promise but didn’t quite come together in a consistent way. The duo have now returned with Nécroses, which sees them rein in some of their ideas, whilst also introducing a few new ones.
Right from the start, it’s clear that Epectase have little interest in making things easy for the listener. The opening track ‘V.I.T.R.I.O.L.’ is an unusual way in which to start an album. Even though it’s the shortest song on Nécroses, it’s still over seven minutes long, lumbering forward with sinister organs, droning bass lines, and ominous vocals which gradually build up into a post-black metal inferno. There’s a real tension to the track, a slow sense of build-and-release that’s as cathartic as it is unsettling, and it’s also unlike almost anything else on the album. Second track ‘Confusion’ is far more representative of Nécroses as a whole – prog-black metal that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Enslaved record circa Isa, full of blood and thunder, alongside more unsettling sections that twist the music into something far more sinister. Despite the wealth of ideas, riffs, and talent on display, ‘Confusion’ feels far shorter than its 13-minute duration, and shows Epectase at their best.
Whilst Astres sometimes felt like Epectase were trying to write a different genre with each track, the third song on Nécroses – ‘Désillusion’ – demonstrates that they’re now more confident with exploring themes within a style. It’s still a mixture of prog rock and black metal, but of different textures. Opening up with an almost thrash metal riff, it’s not too long until the song moves into more mid-paced, expansive territories, and then from there into something mournful led by clean guitars and dramatic, clean singing rather than the more typical black metal harsh vocals that had previously dominated. Likewise, closer ‘Nécrose’ takes their sound into more unsettling territories, with shifting tempos and moments where guitars are used more for noise than for riff. The sense of malign aggression that characterises large parts of the track is far more insidious and effective than a full-frontal assault would have been, and makes the latter half of the song all the more stirring and dramatic. The emergence of an undeniably rocking riff and what sounds like rock’n’roll piano in the background comes across with an undeniably joyful, life-affirming power, like sunshine on after a rainstorm, and ends Nécroses on a real high.
More than the variety of sounds explored on the album, it’s that sense of shifting emotional dynamics which gives Nécroses its true power, and makes it a far stronger album than Astres was. Sure, it’ll still need a full listens to fully appreciate – with songs this long and involved, that should be a given. But Epectase have ensured that such efforts are well-rewarded, with Nécroses being a bold, dynamic album that has much to offer.
Nécroses is out on November 18th via Frozen Records and can be ordered here.
Words: Stuart Wain