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Crawling Out Of The Crypt

High Roller (2014)
Rating: 8.5/10

High Roller Records have been popping out some fine acts over the years and are becoming one of metal’s most prolific labels. I just wish some bands would come up with more inventive monikers, because the name Epitaph isn’t going to do them any favours in the long run; after all, there must be some 20 or more bands with the same name!

Anyway though, this particular quartet comes from Verona in Italy and has in fact existed since 1986. The trouble is, these guys pretty much became cult after releasing only three demos – their first in 1988, their last in 1994, and then they disappeared. But, with a new guitarist in Lorenzo Loatelli, Epitaph have emerged from the grave once again to stain our ears with their slightly odd brand of doom metal.

It’s rather strange that they were not successful in their original incarnation; after all, there was a wave of Italian doom metal bands doing the rounds at the time, the most popular of these being Death SS, and my favourites being Black Hole. But now it’s time to concentrate on the present and Crawling Out Of The Crypt seems to be a rather apt title for this band, which is still fronted by the enigmatic Emiliano Cioffi who has a truly maniacal warble about his attack; like some madman he wails, moans and in demented fashion leers over the traditional doom quake before him.

The black riffs of hell are churned out by that man Loatelli who was clearly the missing piece of this macabre jigsaw which also boasts the talents of drummer Mauro Tollini and bassist Nicola Murari. They have all lit a black candle and in praise of Satan crafted a worrying slab of oaken metal that effortlessly conjures images of flickering demons, bewitching covens and foggy graves yawning to puke out their decomposed contents.

So obscure in its sound, Epitaph instils an utmost feeling of dread just as they did on their 1988 The Lord Of Evil demo. There’s the combination of traditional metal rumbling in the guitar sound, but the creaks are loud and the bumps in the night so bone-shuddering that Epitaph becomes the musical equivalent of spending the night in a dilapidated haunted house surrounded by escapees from the local asylum.

It’s strange to hear so many contemporary bands attempt to churn out music of similar eeriness and yet fail miserably, and so it’s nice to hear the old masters return and show the new kids how it’s done. Far from being the usual Black Sabbath clones as some would expect, Epitaph has its own sound and with those ghostly tremors in the vocal department they can’t go wrong really.

Each track trickles from the dusty cracks like some black tongue of deception keen for a globule of shed blood. ‘Ancient Rite’ is a doom metal classic that the world needs to hear as it comes nodding its way across the moors like a horde of cloaked undead; the drums provide a menacing backbone to this creepy-crawly sound of spooks and spectres. Cioffi exists like some unhinged warlord drifting across the sullen ground with a gaggle of ghouls in his path, casting black ribbons of gloom in the form of ‘Sacred And Prophane’ and the brooding ‘Daughters Of Lot’, which comes complete with a rusty bass intro that is sure to get the winds howling outside the bedroom window.

This is real, creepy doom metal but one which doesn’t rest in any comfort zone. Instead, it offers up a strange brew of mid-paced rockers too; the best of these being the plodding ‘Loser One’, while ‘Confuse The Light’ takes us further into the pitch depths with its mournful guitar tone and catchy drum nods.

Epitaph’s sound is a difficult one to pin down, but it’s a doom metal experience that most certainly borders on the original and that’s not something you’ll hear me say very often when speaking of doom metal bands. Crawling Out Of The Crypt grows on you like a flesh-eating bacteria, and by the time it’s 55 minutes are up you’ll have rats scurrying out of your skull. This is one grave worth digging.

Neil Arnold

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