One of the finest new bands we've stumbled across here at Crucial Blast, New York based outfit Epistasis first appeared in 2012 with a self-titled album on The Path Less Traveled Records. Those early recordings revealed an interesting confluence of sounds, their often difficult, jagged arrangements traced with elements of prog rock and noise rock, black metal and avant jazz, and even the influence of modern classical composers such as Béla Bartók, Arvo Pärt and György Ligeti. Even then in embryonic form, Epistasis were hinting at the sort of abrasive, atmospheric metal that we're continually obsessed with over here at C-Blast, but it is with their second release (and first for Crucial Blast) Light Through Dead Glass that the band has re-emerged with a much more focused and fleshed-out sound. Now a quartet comprised of Amy Mills on vocals and trumpet (who has also contributed trumpet parts on new albums from Castevet and Psalm Zero), Alex Cohen (drums), Kevin Wunderlich (guitar) and Doug Berns (bass), Epistasis delivers a dark new vision of atmospheric dissonance and surrealistic heaviness with this six-song mini album recorded by Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Swans, Unsane).
With this new collection of songs, the band has evolved into something much darker, the music shifting from passages of moody, understated atonal melody into blasts of frostbitten discordant blackness and lurching, angular riffage. Beginning with the crushing, doom-laden dread that opens "Time's Vomiting Mouth", its yawning blackened heaviness glazed in a glistening electronic sheen, the band quickly erupt into paroxysms of jagged black metal-esque violence. Amy Mills's ghastly scream drifts vaporously behind those twisted, lurching grooves and blackened blasts, often trading off with the gorgeously ghostly sound of her trumpet bleating in the darkness, strains of spectral jazziness echoing through the depths beneath the band's complex, metallic assault. These subtle jazz-informed touches are met with the furious drumming of Alex Cohen, also a member of avant death metallers Pyrrhon and NY death metal titans Malignancy; his aggressive performance on Light... give these songs a churning rhythmic intricacy that even seethes beneath the band's more atmospheric moments. And Light... has plenty, from the eerie guitar strings that lilt across the opening minutes of "Finisterre", gradually disassembling into a haze of fractured folkiness before blasting into another swirl of savage blackened discordant metal, later giving way to mournful guitar melodies that cascade across the latter half of the song in limpid sheets of elliptical beauty; to the haunting ambience of "Grey Ceiling", all layered in those bleary horn tones and smeared jazzy drift. The more black metal influenced aspects of Epistasis's sound seem to be informed by the likes of Ved Buens Ende and Virus with a similar tendency towards difficult, off-kilter riffing and odd melodic shapes, and when the guttural chaos of "Witch" appears, there is almost a hint of some of the murkier, more abstract realms of death metal, but this is only barely glimpsed before the band hurtles into the further reaches of psychotic vocal delirium, blasts of controlled chaos and deformed out-jazz horror that make up much of this disc.
Much like label-mates Ehnahre, Epistasis craft an unconventional, complex sound that suggests just as much kinship with the darker and more malevolent realms of prog rock (Univers Zero, Present, "Red"-era King Crimson) as it does with the more outré fringes of black metal, delivering a kind of nightmarish dissonance shot through with scenes of shocking surrealistic violence and flashes of phantasmal beauty.
The CD version comes in digipack packaging.