All Light Dies

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Way back in the late 90s/early 2000s, The End Records were arguably the best independent record label around that wasn’t one of the ‘big’ four- Nuclear Blast, Century Media, Relapse and Metal Blade- when it came to underground metal.

With releases from bands like Agalloch, Ulver, Arcturus, Anathema, November’s Doom, Crisis, Love History, Sculptured, Scholomance, Unexpect, Virgin Black and others, the label was diverse, ambitious and often genre bending.

But for me personally, one of the band’s early flag ship US bands that was able to compete with their European brethren was Tennessee’s black metal act Epoch of Unlight.

With three albums on The End Records from 1999-2002 (What Will Be Has Been, Caught in the Unlight and The Continuum Hypothesis), Epoch of Unlight delivered killer melodic, but vicious black metal with a unique sense of chaotic business from founder/drummer Tino LoSicco, with whom I stayed with contact with after doing some features for Metal Maniacs’ magazine.

Well, after 2005s The Continuum Hypothesis, the band took a break of sorts, but earlier in 2022, they returned in glorious fashion with their first album in 17 years, At War With the Multiverse.

S0 I reached out to Tino, and he along with new vocalist Scott Baggett, so delve a little more into one of the more successful and needed metal reunions of the last few years.

So the first big question is… why now.? What about 2022 and a 17-year layoff made this the time to come back?

Scott: I can’t answer for the time before I was around, but we’d been planning since I joined to get into the studio and record some new music. They had four new songs completed, and several more that needed lyrics. When Jason unexpectedly quit again, it set those plans back a bit. “Fuck, we have to start over with another guitarist?” Josh saved the day for us by agreeing to come back – since he was in the band previously for a number of years, he already knew the older songs for live shows, plus he was a quick learner for the new ones and added his own flair to them, and his attitude was just what we needed. Fast-forward through the lost time of the pandemic, and at the end of 2021, we finally got off our asses and got to recording. So really, there’s nothing particularly significant about the year or the time span, this was just when things *finally* clicked: the lineup was stable, we had 10 songs that were finished and well-honed (thanks, COVID, for giving us a lot of downtime!), and most importantly, all of the members were enthusiastic about the band.

And then to follow up, what happened 17 years ago that made Epoch of Unlight go on hiatus- you were a flagship band for The End Records, a huge label back then. Was there a plan to come back years ago or was the band truly done in a sense back in 2005?

Tino: We never were on hiatus. We continued to write, rehearse, and play live regularly. We did focus on playing closer, “regional” shows, when it came to traveling outside of Memphis to accommodate for everyone’s work schedule. (My travel schedule for work increased dramatically in 2006 so it limited the number of consecutive days that I could be gone for shows.) As Scott mentioned, there were also some changes in the vocal and 2nd guitar line-up over the years that attributed to the delays in getting the newer material recorded.

Were The End Records ever an option to go back to for your return?

Tino: No. We’ve had no contact with The End since we completed our commitments with them.

Was there something about the state of USBM that pushed the comeback at all?

Tino: Not really. It just worked out organically that we were able to get the new album recorded when we did. There seems to be quite a bit of new music coming out from old and new bands alike so we were fortunate to release AWWTM during this “wave.”

How did you settle on tiny Dark Horizon Records (only 8 or so releases to their name) for the release of the new album? I’m guessing there were some larger label options out there?

Scott: Well, we’re not signed to Dark Horizon per se — Dark Horizon is helping us distribute the physical album. We paid for everything that went into the making of this album ourselves — the recording; having Fascination Street, the BEST mastering house for metal, master the album; the art and layout; and we’d already arranged for the PR on our own. We’ve spent thousands of dollars to make this album. What we wanted from a label *for this particular album* was mainly their distribution infrastructure (and frankly, their imprint as well, that helps). The two conditions we had were that the album had to be released in mid-to-late 2022, and we also wanted to retain the rights, or at the very least the digital rights, to this album we’d invested so much of our own money into. That obviously and understandably narrowed our options down, and while we surprisingly had some that were fine with the rights or had acceptable alternatives, their release schedules were packed until 2023. Dark Horizon was one of the labels was fine with both the rights and the schedule, and in conversing with the owner Lord Typhus, he won us over with his dedication to the genre (he’s been in extreme metal bands like Morpheus Descends for as long as Epoch has existed), his desire to make the CD package something special, and his enthusiasm for the album. DH has been great, and we’re really glad we are able to work with them.

And look, we’re not delusional – while EoU never stopped being a band, we haven’t released anything since 2005. We hadn’t done the best job of keeping the name alive, and that was a mistake. Some labels were rightfully leery of investing in us for that reason. If this album is well-received, maybe that will change. But we had zero hesitation going with Dark Horizon for this one, we couldn’t care less about their size.

Can you talk about the new lineup and how it came about as well as how old members got back into the fold for the reunion?

Scott: I’ve known Tino and Joe since around 1992. Tino was in a band called Enraptured with our bassist Joe’s twin brother (and original Epoch bassist) Pierce, and I was in a band called Purgatory, the first two death metal bands in Memphis. Enraptured was more my style, but I was too loyal to the Purgatory guys to bug Tino about teaming up. I quit music entirely for about 10 years after Purgatory imploded, then joined a death metal band called Burial Within from 2005-2010. Once that band broke up (side note: Ben Hutcherson from Khemmis was our guitarist in Burial Within and does guest vocals on “An Amaranthine Line”), I sat around for around 5 more years until Tino got in touch: Jason Smith wanted to concentrate on guitar, so they were looking for a lead vocalist. They knew I had a big ol’ set of death metal pipes, and we also go way back, so it was a natural fit.

Let’s get into the album a little bit- how old is the material on the album- is there some old stuff from the 00s in there or is this all relatively new?

Tino: All of these songs were written from about 2005/2006 to 2021. The oldest to make this recording is the last song on the album (“The Lie of Tomorrow’s Dawn”). As I mentioned earlier, we never stopped writing, so we were sitting on a mountain of material by the time we finally started recording in October of 2021. At that time, we had 10 complete songs (music and lyrics), plus the music for at about another 10.

What I would counter as a newness aspect to the songs on the new album is that when you rehearse music for that long you have the opportunity to review and revise the compositions ad nauseum. Some of these songs such as “Amaranthine line” went through extensive rewrites. The line-up additions also gave us the opportunity to highlight the talents of the members we had at the time. For example, working with 2 talented lead guitar players with an appreciation for 80’s thrash provided us with a great opportunity to have lead trade-offs on the last song that really added to the flow of the song and gave it that punch I was looking for to end the album.

Tino was the primary songwriter and lyric for the first three albums- has that dynamic changed for the new album, it looks like Scott did some /all? lyrics….and if so how do you keep the unique Epoch of Unlight sounds while allowing new members to contribute?

Scott: I wrote lyrics for five of the new songs. I joined thinking it was a one-man operation songwriting-wise and I could just kick my feet up, relax, and just be a death metal puppet, but these songs were much more collaborative, so I had to actually contribute. I’ve never written the types of stories typical of Epoch songs, so it was a learning curve to try to craft a story and a universe with my lyrics that fit the Epoch aesthetic. I actually was worried my songs would stick out like a sore thumb, but in the end, I think I was able to meld my own style with what is expected from Epoch of Unlight. Certainly, there are way, way more deep vocals than before, that’s just what I do, so I do hope that people who preferred the previous, mostly-high vocal style from past Epoch singers accept the diversity in what I’m doing.

Tino- when writing an Epoch of Unlight song- there’s a distinct sound you have that makes it EOU, that chaotic, melodic sound- how aware of you to make that happen and balance it with new elements to keep things fresh in 2022- I think you did a perfect job  for the new album.

Tino: First, thank you and I appreciate the kind words. I can’t say there was intent or awareness in the approach of the writing as far as keeping things fresh or interesting. (Maybe refining our technique over the years allowed us to hone our skills more for the sound on the new album.) Music-wise, I’ve always just tried to keep things interesting both from a listening and playing perspective. Successfully capturing the melodic and extreme/chaotic styles in an organic sense musically, is a major part of that interest for me.

What I can say is that even with all the line-up changes over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with friends and like-minded musicians that understand how I write and are able to blend their styles with mine in a complementary fashion.

If I had to identify a source of “freshness” in the band and our sound, that title would go to our significantly younger guitarist John (He’s been in the band over 10 years…yet he still makes me feel old.)

And it looks like some of the songs on the new album are follow-ups or related to prior songs correct?

Tino: Lyrically yes, there is a continuity with the previous albums.

The stories/scenes captured in the lyrics continue or expand upon the dark, science fiction and fantasy concepts alluded to on the earlier albums. At times they also function as allegorical tools for weaving the duality concept of light and “Unlight” throughout the body of our work.

Also, as a long-time fan of the English author Brian Lumley (‘Necroscope’ series)  and it is fair to say that my writing across all our releases is heavily influenced by his work.

So what’s next for Epoch of Unlight? Hopefully not another 17-year layoff I hope?

Tino: The plan is to get these next 10-ish songs recorded in 2023/2024. We are also looking to promote the new album more in 2023 as we start to schedule as many shows as our combined schedules will permit across the country


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