When I saw that I, Voidhanger Records were releasing the debut full-length of a progressive extreme metal band from Paris, I knew I had to snap it up quick. I’m always intrigued by the Italian label’s output despite not enjoying a lot of their releases. An I, Voidhanger release is usually a big hit or a big miss for me. Regardless, I’ll always check their roster out. So, here we are with Epectase, the next band on the experimental conveyor belt. Epectase are a two-piece consisting of multi-instrumentalist Vague and vocalist Avitus. Their style: an encyclopedic medley of everything.
Astres is a record of over indulgence and over stimulation. Opener “As He Runs Towards the Stars” slides into swaggering heavy metal guitar noodling at the five-minute mark following an opening black metal attack. Finger tapping sequences of joviality and glee counteract quite bluntly with the rickety roughness of the song’s black metal opening stretches. The melodic lightness softens further when all feedback and amplification is replaced by clean instrumental meditations. Predictably, the final stretch of the song merges the blackened crust with the feathery melodies – it’s effective, satisfying and thoroughly decent. Unfortunately the longer tracks are messier affairs that suffer with pace issues and overindulgence.
The 16 minute “Entering the Domain of the Solar Sovereign” opens with a seething attack of black-thrash that twists, writhes and chugs along satisfyingly. The rough, organic vocal delivery suits the style, breathing fluidity and life into the track. There’s nothing sterile about Epectase‘s approach to the progressive end of the extreme spectrum—there’s a real warmth and depth the sound which allows the streams of sound to merge reasonably fluidly. Epectase grow tired of extreme metal and at the seven-minute mark contort and reshape themselves as a bluesy stoner band. Chunky and simplistic riffs and licks swagger and slide, a startling contrast to the black-thrash of the opening segments. It’s a peculiar transformation, one I’m not sure really works. Jam-like, the song continues to play slight deviations of the blues-riffs; the elastic bass playing intensifies, solos become longer and random chord changes occur, all merging with sloppy freedom. Then, again, a merging of the two opposing forces—a death-doom breakdown, melancholic in tone, brings the 16-minute track to an end.
Following tracks are similar. It’s like the band are navigating a maze blindfolded. There are lots of footsteps retraced, lots of subtle (and not too subtle) rephrasing and reevaluation of sound. Ultimately, the songs get lost in their search for the most epic of endings. The individual moments in the journey are enjoyable enough, but the full voyage lacks cutting edge, economy and clear, thoughtful planning. “La Dédale des Astres et des Âmes” saunters aimlessly; it’s attempt at writhing unconventionality fails to strike the match with fiery intensity and, at 12 minutes, is a chore which fails to come to a satisfying end. Final track “La Mer Pourpe” is a song of oppositions. A destabilized mess of noise and black metal makes way for airy softness, just like in previous tracks: a heaven and hell dichotomy. The song length allows for a less erratic approach. More than at any other time on the record the progressions in “La Mer Pourpe” feels organic. A grand closing cascade of baritone clean vocals and sullen riffs fails, though, to reach an emotional, powerful apex.
Overall, Astres attempts to reach grandeur and grandiosity but Epectase fall just short. Standout tracks like the slow-burning “Solar Winds – Climax” have a discernible, unique identity and a logical, unified direction. The way this track steadily builds is impressive. It doesn’t need a lot of flash and pomp, just confident world building. Regrettably, the majority of the record loses the plot, mixing elements with a respectable yet inconsistent energy. Once again, there’s so much potential but little in the way of completeness here.