Since their inception 16 years ago, the Irish trio God Is An Astronaut have become to be one the most formidable forces within the post-rock scene and movement. Often being stated as on par with illustrious acts such as Explosions In The Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the act have been perceived as a major influence within the genre ever since the release of their first album; 2002’s The End Of The Beginning. Whilst a large sum of their soundscapes from previous releases are known to convey images of curiosity, wonder and vivid intensity, their latest release, Epitaph is a more sombre, sober and withdrawn exploration of the subject of loss.
The title track and opener does a fantastic job at the establishing the blanketing atmosphere found within this record. A distant storm of noise led forward by ominous and forewarning keys make way for a sudden and spontaneous crescendo which delves into the thunder and sobering tones aforementioned. There’s pain, anguish and emotional stress within this sonic downpour, which is all inspired by the grief the band has faced in recent years due to personal losses. Despite such vivid and vibrant sonic sadness, it feels like a cathartic release of such pent up negativity and one that can offer a similar release to listeners who are in need of a source to console their emotional pain.
Melancholy, woe and search of release are the concrete overtones of Epitaph with second track 'Mortal Coil' exploring the concept of release from a troubled existence via suicide and the wake of destruction such an act proves to be the catalyst for. Whilst such sorrow is undeniably felt, these concepts are explored and presented in a fashion that doesn’t borrow tried and tested stereotypes that are found within other alternative genres. Such a statement becomes evident when the group document such themes through soundscapes that borrow cues and tones from the genres of dark ambience and ambient krautrock.
Whilst the albums mix of ambient structures leading to thunderous post-rock does truly conjure thoughts of woe and depression, there are a few times when the album does come ever so slightly predictable, with the track ‘Medea’ slightly rehashing the sonic themes within the title track. However, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives found within Epitaph. Tracks like ‘Séance Room’ create an uneasy air of unpredictability, with the track using subtle electronics to tease at a release that becomes tantalising the more the song progresses. When such a release comes, leading the listener into a maelstrom of metallic and electronic riffs and noise, it’s triumphant and thoroughly absorbing.
It would be unjust not to cover the album closer ‘Oisín’, a remarkably beautiful track that is led by a touching and sombre piano riff. An ode to the young family member of the related band members who was tragically taken from this world, it’s 4 minutes of tender anguish and longing that documents the death of innocence and the cruelty that life can sometimes deliver to those who least deserve it.
In all, whilst Epitaph isn’t a record that changes the melancholic post-rock game, it’s a record that’s truly resonates the themes it aims to convey. Whilst seasoned post-rock and post-metal fans won’t find such structures foreign, this record truly proves to be the authentic sonic manifestation of anguish, loss and a search for a release that brings hope for a brighter future.