Epoch of Unlight – At War with the Multiverse Review

Comeback albums are tricky propositions. Higher profile acts cop the most scrutiny, as factors, like the band losing their original spark, trying too hard to rehash past glories, or simply caving beneath the perhaps unreasonable weight of expectation bearing down, often lead to listener disappointment. However, prime examples of comeback success stories include standout triumphs in recent years from Green Carnation and Disillusion, bucking the trend. Enter the long-gestating comeback from Tennessee underground warriors, Epoch of Unlight, returning with their first LP since their excellent 2005 opus, The Continuum Hypothesis. A range of life circumstances and line-up shuffles hindered the band’s return to the studio, but Epoch of Unlight are finally here with their fourth LP, entitled At War with the Multiverse.

At War with the Multiverse is a familiar, yet fresh take on their established formula, featuring a re-jinked line-up that has tirelessly honed the material comprising this long-awaited return. Whereas Epoch of Unlight’s sound has previously featured a technical, thrashy black metal core embellished with melodeath and progressive elements, At War with the Multiverse flips the tact a little. The black metal influence, previously a potent combination of second-wave melodic black and thrashy American styles, is more an undertone, as Epoch of Unlight merge hefty thrash with blackened, techy melodic death, whipped into a tasty batch of inspired tunes. Vocalist Scott Baggett shifts from the overt blackisms of previous frontmen in favor of a strong two-toned mix of deathly growls and higher-pitched variables.

Strong elements of Epoch of Unlight’s past glories are neatly represented, retaining core elements of their distinctive sound. The band’s riffing style has always teemed with searing vitality, unleashing a bevy of technical, aggressive, and scalpel-edged melodic hooks. Meanwhile, their skillful shifts between high-speed tempos, reinforced by Tino LoSicco’s busy, precise and complex hammering of the skins, lend a turbo-charged exuberance. Opener, “The Anthropocene” exemplifies the thrashy, aggressive delivery and burly presence permeating the album, kicking things into overdrive. It’s a straightforward but effective cut, setting a solid standard. Marked by consistency and razor-sharp, icy aggression, At War with the Multiverse is a wildly entertaining and catchy ride, featuring the blasty, nostalgic and signature characteristics of their long past earlier days.

Highlights are plentiful. “Wrath of the Cryomancer” blends trademark Epoch of Unlight vibes with intricate riffs, proggy breaks, and epic, biting melodicism. The dynamic “An Amaranthine Line” covers ample territory, as slicing blackened melodeath riffs, tasteful synths, and tradeoff vocal attacks forge a memorable song, boosted by an inspired guest vocal from Ben Hutcherson (Khemmis). “Elysian Immortals” absolutely sizzles in an old school Epoch vein, highlighted by bloodied hooks and their signature-controlled chaos and lightning speed. “Night Hunt” brims with cracking blackened, via Gothenburg, riffs and blasty aggression. Lengthier closer “The Lie of Tomorrow’s Dawn” channels past and present elements into one potent, thrashy banger, packed with superb guitar work. Musically, these dudes have always possessed chops to burn, regardless of line-up variations. Their rejuvenated attack is in top form. Skilled axeman Josh Braddock and John Fortier wield their instruments with deft melodic flair, ripping out killer riff after killer riff, balancing the hooky and melodic with searing shreddage and aggressive, technical flair. And LoSicco’s drumming is top shelf as always. The production does a solid job of providing an updated, but not sterile modern crunch, though I would love to hear the bass pop a little more in the mix.

Some longtime fans may experience pangs of disappointment by the lessened black metal influence and high-pitched vocal styles, but that is more a matter of preference. Overall Epoch of Unlight do a terrific job of staying true to their original sound yet evolving with a fresh upgrade and inspired writing. If muscular thrash meets melodeath with slashing hooks and blackened, proggy and technical tidbits are your bag, Epoch of Unlight have you covered. Old school devotees and listeners who get a kick out of bands such as At the Gates, Dissection, Soulless, The Black Dahlia Murder and Absu should find much to enjoy here. Although perhaps more straightforward and less adventurous than earlier offerings, At War with the Multiverse marks a blazing, memorable return that will hopefully signal a second coming of renewed creativity.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Horizon Records
Websites: epochofunlight.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/epochofunlight
Releases Worldwide: September 16th, 2022

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