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How fitting can an album title be? Epitaph from Verona, Italy, are back
from the dead! And more than that: Almost 30 years after the birth of
Epitaph they finally release their very first full-length album via High
Roller Records. For those not familiar with Epitaph: In the eighties
and nineties, Italy spawned a big black mass of great doomy bands, as
the underground flourished with illustrous names like Death SS, Black
Hole, Sacrilege, Zess, Malombra, Cultus Sanguine, Abysmal Grief...
Epitaph were part of this glorious “Spaghetti Doom” movement, having
close bonds with other legendary acts, namely Black Hole and Sacrilege.
Singer Emiliano can tell more about the ‘connections between the three
cult acts: “Nicola and Mauro were just young kids during Black Hole’s
heyday. Nevertheless, they used to contribute a lot to the band, and
then quickly grew fed up with it when it became apparent that Black Hole
was turning into main man Morbioli’s solo project, its sound getting
even more keyboards-centred (admittedly, keys were an important part of
the Black Hole recipe). Then Sacrilege spawned the lurid seeds of what
was to become Epitaph. Nicola wrote the song ‘Necronomicon’ – that song
still has its rightful place in our repertoire, since it’s such a big
fun to perform – during the last days of Sacrilege. Thinking about it,
the track must be one of the very first examples of Lovecraft inspired
metal…!” To give a better insight into the history of the band, Emiliano
sums up in short the line up changes in Epitaph before the reunion:
“Early Epitaph’s line-up was quite different from what it looks like
today: Nicola (a.k.a. ‘Nicholas Murray’ of Black Hole) was still in the
band, and Andrea Picchi (who was to form All Souls’ Day, a doom act that
featured Emiliano, Epitaph’s current frontman, for a time) was in too,
along with Giampy Tomezzoli. For the second demo two more members were
part of the band: Fabio Fiocco and ‘Mackley’ Dal Fra’; this line up
stayed stable until the split up. When the time came to reunite,
Tomezzoli was briefly part of Epitaph again. He’s still a very good
friend of ours and a genuine supporter!”
Even though they managed to release three demos which by now have gained cult status among the connoisseurs of Italian doom, Epitaph decided to call it quits before they could build on what they had achieved: “When the third and last demo was released (around 1994) the decision was already made: Epitaph was over. After so many years of struggling on the road, the band had basically worn itself out. Some members wished to try very different routes, while the remaining members had invested so much of their own lives in the band that this blow proved fatal. Nevertheless, the ghostly memory of Epitaph kept nudging back, relentlessly!” No small wonder then that under these circumstances, it took the band almost thirty years to release their first proper album. What makes the whole thing even more interesting: Even though Italian Doom nowadays is praised up and down the wider metal scene, back in the days being part of the “underground” did not serve well as a sales argument, as Emiliano explains: “We ought to say: the stars were NOT right! And this is quite true, after a fashion. During Epitaph’s pristine years, it was really hard for an Italian band to get any recognition. The sub-genre itself was almost despised and ridiculed in our own country, back then: Most people considered us just a bunch of creepy weirdos! Even Black Hole’s legacy didn’t help it. More recently, after a promising re-start, we suffered a stroke of bad luck, or two. Still, it must be said that – ultimately – we were our own worst enemies: for a stretch of time we couldn’t help but feel unready for a full comeback. Then – all of a sudden – we understood we would never be like, say, Queensryche. We’re not that kind of band, simply put, and we’re more than fine with that!” After having come to that conclusion, time was more than ripe for a return of the former cult outfit who had never really buried the spirit of doom, despite all obstacles: “Just like the rest of the erstwhile members, Mauro (a.k.a. Luther Gordon in the Black Hole’s line-up) never really quit making music. He’s the only member featuring in all previous incarnations of the band, and a few years back it occurred to him that Epitaph was his One True Project, as far as music is concerned, and that it deserved one more chance. Actually, the band made timid attempts at relaunching itself even before 2012. Funnily enough, just a few years ago we were completely oblivious of the interest bands like Epitaph do stir nowadays. We felt outdated, a little unconfident perhaps, yet utterly passion-driven! Jaded? NEVER!”
On their facebook page Epitaph stated that things were falling into place when the band finally met their new guitarist, Lorenzo Loatelli in 2012. One year passed, and in November 2013 “Crawling out of the Crypt” was recorded at the trusty Opal Arts Studios. Since a first master did not prove satisfactory, the band turned to Patrick W. Engel of Temple of Disharmony (“the Sound Savant himself”, as Emiliano puts it) who is renowned for his great quality work for a long row of High Roller-Releases. Now what can old and new fans expect from the album? Emiliano: “We chose to use old (yet revamped) material, mostly. We’ve been writing a lot of new tunes of late: after a while, some are still to our likings, graced by a great old school feel that makes them on par with the old stuff, while some already went down the drain! So, for this first release, we went for those songs we feel had passed the Test of Time.”
Besides presenting old material in a sparkling new outfit, “Crawling out of the Crypt” contains some special features Emiliano is quite proud of: “We had the chance to enlist the venerable Gianni Nepi - the voice of mighty Dark Quarterer – as a guest in one of our favourite tracks of the album. The end result is truly grandiose!”
Since the signing with High Roller Records, Epitaph find themselves in the best company: “In April 2014, the world was collapsing around Epitaph: We could no longer get the album issued, so our journey was abruptly halted. At once, we thought that incident would be just a negligible setback! Epitaph set off in search of a new label. We already had heard of High Roller Record’s remarkable reputation, so… why not?!? After all, the guys in High Roller had published Black Hole’s long lost demo material. At least, Epitaph should pique their curiosity – we thought – and so here we are!”
It seems as if Epitaph took the right decision to release their first album just now – sometimes it pays off when things take a while, as we live in favourable times for all things Doom. Emiliano is quite aware of this: “As far as we know, doom seems now stronger than ever before! In contrast to the old pioneers, the new bands easily master all the tricks! Usually, this is good: We get a lot of quality albums from so many great bands. Sometimes – though – this makes the albums of today feel a little less spontaneous than those first awkward blunders into uncharted lands… Italy gets its own solid share of talented bands, no doubt. We hope that in the decades to come, this current of Spaghetti Doom movement is to retain its characteristic traits. In a country scarcely rooted in rock, the doom scene might stand out as a distinguishable tradition, just like those hallowed Italian prog-rock bands from the seventies!”
Tracks #A2 and #A3 are a re-recording from their "Sacred And Profane" 1992 demo on cassette.
Track #C2 is a re-recording from their "The Lord Of Evil" 1990 demo on cassette.
Tracks #B1 and #D1 are re-recording from their "Mental Walls" 1994 demo on cassette.
Track #D2 is a re-recording from their first band Black Hole, listenable in the 1985 demo.
Released October 28, 2014 as 2LP in gatefold sleeve.