Phew. This is ambitious. 2 Cds, almost 2 hours of ambient black metal contained in a very well packaged (Hypnotic Dirge’s best packaging to date) double gatefold digipack. Nicely done indeed, now if only the music was as striking.

Despite being around for 5 years and having three other full-length albums under their belt, this is my first time hearing Russia’s Epitimia (another word for ‘penance’) and they could not be on a more fitting label in Hypnotic Dirge, being both at times hypnotic and dirge-y as they play a form of slower, introspective and often saxophone-laden black metal that’s very atmospheric and languid.

The first CD, titled Delusion is the more ‘metal’ of the CDs. The riffs as heard on the opening two real tracks, “Escapism” and “Ataraxia”  (after the intro) right away reminded me of Greek act The Elysian Fields, specifically, We….The Enlightened; doomy and layered but still black metal, just played somewhat slowly, and with some deeper vocals. It’s not really depressive or suicidal black metal, just elegantly morose, and thusly a long, patient listen. The songs are mostly pretty long and wandering and would fit right in on Prophecy Productions, with warbly acoustics and a dreamy, neofolk/classic aesthetic, but for all the ambition, the material is still just a bit too meandering.

That being said, if you have the time, the album is definitely a bit of a grower, especially the Delusion CD. The likes of “Frustration”, and “Contemplation” make for interesting, and at times engaging doomy, ambient black metal, but don’t expect instant gratification as the songs wind and wander with multiple elements that is not a quick listen. Even when the pace does pick up a bit, don’t expect blast beats and ferocious snarls, just controlled explosions of polite elegance (“Mors Putavia”). The saxophone here and there is a nice touch, and I wished it had been integrated a little more than it is as it adds a really nice warmth to Hypnotic Dirge’s usually frigid releases.

The second CD, Illusion, is the more experimental of the two discs, though hints of it surface on “Elysium” and “Metanoia” to close out Delusion, being more dark wave and ‘post/shoegaze-y’ black metal -ish akin to Alcest, Amesoeurs etc. It’s more shimmery, jangly, melodic and well ‘happy’. But frankly, after a few tracks I lost interest, partly due to the preceding hour of more harsh music, and partly because it’s a little less interesting stylistically. “A Flash Before Death” and “Muse” pretty well sum up the second disc with airy, delicate blast beats and some operatic female vocals (“Foretime”, “Far Away”). Some dreamy trip hop beats arise in “Reflection”, and closer “Rebirth”, further enhancing the second discs experimentation, and I’m sure listeners will be divided on their presence.

Delusion itself would have been a fairly decent release, and you do get essentially 2 albums, 112 minutes and 18 songs for the price of one CD and each offers up something a shade different that each listener will find something to like or dislike on either or both discs, so you have to give Epitimia some credit there for at least keeping things interesting.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
August 21st, 2014


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