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Thank you for the title Morbo...
I picked this album up by accident, I didn't really want it, but fate brought it to me, proving to me that I am destined to have an irritating life. I'd heard the first half of Only Ash Remains, which wasn't too bad, and managed to gain my interest in the band enough to examine this album after seeing the pretty badass cover art in the local metal store, and browse at it's track listing. When, as if guided by a supernatural force, my fingers lost grip on the shiny case, sending it crashing to the floor, breaking it. Needless to say, I was forced to pay the full $30 for an album I had limited interest in.
To be honest, I was mildly impressed on my first listen, it was certainly complex, and it did have quite an easily digested, inviting sound, if a little weak. But every time I listened to it afterwards I realised more and more that Epitaph is an extremely repetitive piece of death metal, from riffs, to vocals, to solos, to every damn thing on the album. But it got worse for the album; it has now occurred to me that this isn't even Death Metal.
That's right, I can't bring myself to call this death metal.
It's the first example I'd heard of the modern pussified tech death guitar tone. Namely, it's so weak and non-death metal sounding that if it wasn't accompanied by blast beats and death growls, you wouldn't think that this was a death metal album. Honestly, I've heard keyboardists with a more intense tone. This tone has since been utilized by many Tech Death bands, although not quite this badly, resulting in the music having no energy or emotion, instead the wank is put right up in front and focussed on. No longer is it the technical death metal of Suffocation or early Cryptopsy where the music was good, and happened to be complex, Necrophagist say "Look at this guitar noodle and how hard to play it is". Basically, I blame this band for taking the Death away from technical death metal and making this tone desirable for the thousands of bands trying to follow in their footsteps.
Secondly, these riffs aren't death metal. They're like some kind of prog metal or something, basically, the notes don't run together as a real riffs, the tone is so shrill that every note sounds independent, not just atonal, but completely independent, resulting in the riffs having zero punch or memorability. As I said, they're not death metal either, but instead some form of high speed tech metal of some indiscernible style. The final touch to the guitars is the incessant noodling, which is common in tech death, but where say Suffocation could noodle all day and be enjoyable, the total lack of harshness in the sound just makes Necrophagist just sound like identity free ego worship. The most impressive thing is that Suicmez manages to make all the notes sound random, whilst somehow not sounding overly insane or incredible, Everything even manages to sound the same despite the lack of a standard riff. Honestly, I find Brain Drill to have a more cohesive sound than this.
Now, I can't omit that what Muhammed Suicmez has written is phenomenally complex, but honestly, it doesn't matter because there is no song writing, at all. No interaction between instruments, Hell, there isn't even interaction between the just the guitars. You could be excused for thinking Necrophagist only had one guitarist because Christian Münzner has the almost exact same tone just half as loud, just a little lower so he can't encroach on the leads at all. Clearly, Suicmez has gotten caught up with all of his fan worship on his one man performance on "The Onset Of Putrefaction", and has in turn gotten up his own asshole so far that he is now using himself as a puppet. This is simply a ego masturbation session by the bands key member, and everyone else is ignored, nay, consciously pushed back in the writing and mixing just so there's no way that people will want to fellate anyone else in the band.
The only thing death metal about this album is the blast beats and growls. When Suicmez decides to slow down, again, it's not crushing, because of the guitar sound which is similar most bands keyboard sections, instead it sounds more or less like Red Harvest, but weaker.
Continuing with the theme of weak music, you get the other instruments. The drumming is extremely fast, but also completely flat and sterile. The snare sounds about as low as any other drummer's bass drums, and the cymbals are quieter than the sound of a few coins jingling in your pocket. This seems to be just to make sure there's nothing other than guitar in the high end of the sound because Muhammed couldn't bear having anything else interfere with his guitar mastery. The vocals are painfully monotone and indistinguishable, and add nothing to the sound of the band, other than to try and convince people that this is proper DM band.
Personally, I generally have nothing against a little bit of a wankfest, but this is excessive and awful. In fact, the most enjoyable times are where he just gives up all ideas of being a band and plays solos, because they are downright impressive when they don't sound exactly the same; unfortunately a heap of them do. But the few that do stand out, such as Seven, are truly amazing. Most of the score I'm giving this album comes from pretty much the solos and the odd piece of interesting drumming that comes through, despite its miserable sound.
If Muhammed could have restricted his self indulgent tendencies just to his soloing, this probably wouldn't be such a bad album, but he has totally dominated the sound with nothing of interest to give. He fails to provide any brutality or energy, interesting structuring or rhythms, or even playing an enjoyable riff. Basically anything that isn't a solo, he isn't impressive at, yet still he's ALWAYS the most important part of the mix. This is what hurts Epitaph the most; it's a wank fest, but only a wank fest by one member. Resulting in you having nothing to do for the whole duration of this album but listen to Suicmez shred along his scales for all eternity. There's no balance in it, everything is directed at the lead guitar, which is horrible for the most part. The drummer tries to wank a little and make thing interesting, but he is in turn punished with being mixed half as loud as any drum track should ever be, with the dullest and flattest sounding kit ever created.
It's quite amazing that this much can go wrong in just 32 minutes. Not only has it managed to wear out it's welcome in this tiny period of time, it's managed to irritate the hell out of me. I'm not much of a Death Metal purist, I don't usually complain about bands ruining the genre, but this is the closest I've gotten to gaining a personal grudge against a band for disrespecting the general styles of the genre so much. This is pathetically weak and sterile. There's no real soul to the music, it sounds processed and one-dimensional, there’s no energy or aggression, there barely an enjoyable riff on offer. Really, there's nothing on Epitaph apart from one guy showing off what he can do on guitar. Of course, lots of bands show off all the time, but this isn't a band showing off, this is one person showing off at the total expense of the band or any sort of musical achievement.