It’s getting harder and harder for musical acts to really form their own sound, especially in the world of extreme music where seemingly every avenue of musical expression has been explored over and over again. So when an act comes along with a truly unique sound and take on extreme metal it will make you sit up a little straighter and listen a little harder. There will be a lot of straightened backs and strained ears by the time people get through the newest album, Light Through Dead Glass, from New York’s Epistasis.
The medical term for an Epistasis is when the effect of one gene depends on the presence of one or more ‘modifier genes’. What was once thought to only exist in genetics has now seen an application in evolution as we know it. From a musical standpoint there could be no better moniker for this band. In order for Epistasis to work as a band their existing musical genes absolutely depend on the presence of some musical modifiers. For example, it’s the sinister and downright grim, blackened elements of their music exacerbated and punctuated by the unholy caterwauling and trumpet playing of front woman, Amy Mills. That’s right…trumpet.
Let us make no pretensions here. At their very root, their very core, Epistasis should be considered a black metal band in almost every sense of the term. Sure, purists of the genre will detract from this statement with claims about their “look” not being “kvlt” enough or their sound being too experimental in certain sections. Dismissal of both those arguments should come easily when you hear a track like “Witch”, with it’s blast beats, tremolo picking and downright demonic vocals. The ambient passages throughout the song (and album as a whole) only add a macabre sense of foreboding that, in reality, any black metal fan should fully embrace.
Epistasis are a band built on atmosphere. In this case that atmosphere is a dour blast of lethal aggression interspersed with cameos of sombre, dreamlike movements. And yes, trumpet. Never has an instrument, which beforehand seemed so innocuous, been used to such wicked ends. Whether it’s sounding like the call for Hell’s armies to unite like on album opener, “Time’s Vomiting Mouth”, or used as a veil of gloom in between sonic explosions, Epistasis are able to take an instrument you would think had no right being on a black metal album and deftly made it work without it sounding the least bit contrived. This album is not just blast beats with someone noodling some trumpet over top of it. This is not some djent band adding instruments and notes just for the sake of it. Epistasis have managed to adroitly live up to their scientific namesake by crafting songs that are equal parts madness and ambiance. Listening to Light Through Dead Glass could be likened to being tossed around the inside of a tornado, blasted from one end to the other, with deceptively serene moments as you pass through the eye of the storm, only to be repeatedly ripped into the insanity again and again. This is a deliciously crafted album that will sneak up on you in the best ways possible.
Light Through Dead Glass is out on April 1 via Crucial Blast. You can experience the track “Time’s Vomiting Mouth” over at the Crucial Blast Bandcamp page.