In psychology, the ‘dark triad’ refers to the three personality traits of psychopathy, narcissism and machiavellianism, so called because of the negativity associated with these traits. These things, along with the impact such traits in humanity have had on the world, are explored through the anonymous collective Epiphanic Truth’s debut album, Dark Triad: Bitter Psalms To A Sordid Species.
What the album lacks in song numbers, it makes up for in the sheer variety of genres, textures and sounds that permeate its 44 minute runtime. The first two songs sit comfortably between 9 and 11 minutes, but it’s closer ‘Our Vile Roots Flourish Beyond Light’ that takes the cake at an eye-watering 22 and a half minutes.
Opening with horns and discordant strings, ‘The Truth of the Beast’ soon speeds out of the blocks with a maelstrom of frenetic drumming, riffs and vicious roars. Blastbeats and swirling guitars then underscore furious punk-inflected shouts before the song bludgeons once more with a wall of blackened death metal. Intense barely seems like the right word for it and the sung refrain doesn’t lessen this at all.
Barely three minutes in and Dark Triad...has encompassed black metal, death metal and vocals inspired by chamber music. This eclecticism is carried throughout the record; the final few minutes of ‘The Truth of the Beast’ have more in common with freeform lounge jazz than heavy metal and it’s a moment of serenity in an otherwise turbulent sea. In its final moments, however, an undercurrent of tension seeps in and there’s a growing sense of unease.
‘An Inescapable Verdict’ provides the payoff to this, its discordant horns leading into grandiose, blackened death metal akin to Akercocke or latter-day Behemoth, replete with distorted spoken word. It moves at a glacial pace, tension building with smaller releases of pressure interspersed. Cascading drumwork provides the arrhythmic beating heart of the song for its first few minutes with discordant instruments overlaid, but without being overpowering. The first six minutes are spent in this limbo, until Eastern-inspired melodies enter on keys towards the two-thirds waypoint with a plaintive guitar lead. Finally, the volcano erupts again in its final moments, violent death throes with horns and thunderous drums. It’s a furious, blasphemous conclusion to the first half of the album.
To call ‘Our Vile Roots Flourish Beyond Light’ the closing song feels inappropriate; not least because it feels less of a song and more of a suite, composed of multiple movements that are held together by the thematic threads of Dark Triad. Its opening feels almost blissful with a lone piano, but the quiet guitars and effects ensure it lands in quite the opposite way. Its opening moments are also a sonic departure from what’s come before as it moves almost entirely into post-rock territory to stirring effect. The lush soundscapes conjured are swiftly subsumed once more, however, by the re-emergence of blastbeats and swirling tremolo guitar work.
Epiphanic Truth have sworn never to play live and retain their anonymity - bar the near show-stealing session drumming courtesy of Wilfred Ho (Karmacipher), in a bid to shift the focus away from individuals to the collective. It’s a successful, endeavour, too, as the music demands full attention. It’s densely packed with layer upon layer of instrumentation and meaning. Described only as an anonymous core of musicians from a number of former and established acts, the musicians themselves (bar the aforementioned session drums) are clearly remarkably accomplished and keenly aware of how to draw listeners in, only to subvert expectations. This wealth of experience shows; such a high concept and a desire to push back against modernity and its hyperfocus on the cult of individualism, materialism and idolisation could easily have derailed a band of less experience and songwriting nous. Here, though, it’s a resounding success with even the gargantuan closing track holding interest through its many twists and turns across its twenty-plus minutes.
Epiphanic Truth’s debut album is an album that doesn’t sound like a debut, thanks to the care and attention that’s clearly been lavished on it as well as the experience of the collective behind it. Dark Triad: Bitter Psalms To A Sordid Species is a triumph of genre- and mind-bending metal that demands to - and by rights should - be heard far and wide.
Dark Triad: Bitter Psalms To A Sordid Species is out March 21st via Church Road Records
You can pick up a copy here