Faces of Insanity

This is the third full-length from St Petersburg’s Epitimia, a band listed as ambient black metal on the Metal Archives. I haven’t heard their previous releases, so I have to assume that’s correct, but on Faces of Insanity, their sound is more like a mix of the lush, melodic death/doom of Swedish and Finnish acts like Katatonia, Swallow the Sun and Rapture, and the rustic, naturalistic black metal of Eastern European acts like Drudkh, Negura Bunget and Johann Wolfgang Pozoj.

As Faces of Insanity starts – all keening, layered and plaintive guitars melodies with nostalgic, creaky mid-90s production – I think I’m in for a shadowy hour of meandering mope, but then “Epikrisis I: Altered State of Consciousness” (the first of six “Epikrisis”-prefixed tracks) breaks out into a speedy, thrashy bit, and some female vox drift in to complement the crying guitar line. Interesting details, but so far the most remarkable thing here is the distant tone and recording, which sounds as if it’s been decaying and lingering in the air in some dusty, forgotten room, and now comes flooding out as the door is finally opened…

Following tracks pick up the pace a bit more, with a chiming Drudkh-ian vibe and guttural vocals like Negura Bunget or Master’s Hammer. In fact, as the “Epikrisis” segments flit by like sullen, barking ghosts, it dawns on me that the vocals are the heaviest and most bestial thing on the album – to the point where they almost overwhelm the thin, skeletal guitar sound and production. Many of the melodies on tracks like “Epikrisis IV: Jamais Vu” (I didnt know what jamais vu was, look it up) and “Epikrisis VI: Leucotomy” are delivered as reedy, tremolo laments – a nice blackened touch – but the hysterical screaming (shades of …In the Woods or little-known Japanese black metal act Gnome) is just too distracting and silly to take seriously.

There are only two moments on the disc that really stand out for me. One is on “Epikrisis III: Megalomania,” where echoey Burzum-ish chimes and a wandering mystical guitar line create a haunting and memorable interlude. The other is “Epikrisis V: Rorschach Inkblot,” which lopes along with a pokey twang, like some strange, countrified blackened dirge. With its ghostly psych-folk keyboards and an audible bassline beneath the tremolo, it’s the strangest track so far, and while it doesn’t necessarily all work together, it does break up the flow just enough. If only the other tracks were as varied and textured – perhaps then they could match the songtitles, which are the most interesting and colorful element here.

I still recommend this to fans of the genre, as the overall delivery is different enough than the classic Brave Murder Day sound to warrant a listen, but some odd choices and a lack of overall variety make Faces of Insanity a curiosity more than anything else.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
August 6th, 2012


  1. Commented by: Shane

    Sounds like I may want to check this out

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