Anonymous collective Epiphanic Truth recently released their debut album Dark Triad: Bitter Psalms To A Sordid Species through underground tastemakers, Church Road Records. It’s a densely layered, sprawling opus that takes in black, death, doom, jazz, ambient and even elements of EDM; even to call it genre-splicing or complex is far too reductive. Not merely content to craft fourty-plus minutes of some of the finest extreme metal of the year, the collective themed the album around what’s known as the Dark Triad of personality disorders - psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism, as well as how this relates to the current state of the world both socially and politically. Naturally, with such a conceptually rich and expansive album, we had questions - and Epiphanic Truth have some incredibly insightful answers.
What prompted you to form Epiphanic Truth and put together the album? Was there a specific moment?
No, it was far more gradual. Originally It was chatting with and probing like-minded musicians to see who wanted to create something more extreme and wild, different to our former or current projects, as well as being fuelled by in jokes about creating our own ‘metal Illuminati’ and writing odes to Satan. By the time the lyrics and song structures were started, the concept of the ‘Epiphanic Truth’ had been conceived and the Dark Triad triptych concept adopted. We cannot remember specific dates but things would’ve started becoming more serious in 2017, with us effectively dipping in and out when necessary.
The album is a conceptual triptych based on the dark triad of personality traits. What is it about these that drew you to write about these three in particular?
Personally, I am a fan of Triptych artwork - I’m no connoisseur, but I enjoy how three different pieces connected by a theme allows for contrast yet also coherency. It achieves a ‘Goldilocks effect’ and that is the ambition for the album too, considering how long and dense each song is. The Dark Triad of personality disorders (DTOPD) neatly fits the Triptych format and had relevance in a few ways. Without going into detail, certain collaborators within the collective have lived experiences with people exhibiting these traits & as such it was familiar to them before it was utilised as the theme. The main thematic allure came when we started perceiving our current international political predicament & the rise of right wing populism through the lens of the DTOPD - led and enabled by callous, conniving narcissists.
"The main thematic allure came when we started perceiving our current international political predicament & the rise of right wing populism through the lens of the DTOPD - led and enabled by callous, conniving narcissists"
You tie them into the modern world especially in regards to social media and the rise of the far-right; what is it you think about these things that encourage development of dark triad tendencies?
Social media has been demonstrated to be a manipulative infrastructure open to attacks of all kinds - it is the frontier of the hybrid war we have already been in for over a decade. The amount of people I know who either have been brainwashed by alt right youtube content or subtly influenced by it, or who themselves know friends who have been sucked down their own particular rabbit holes, doesn’t fail to alarm me.
We perceive the far right as projecting their own beliefs, rhetoric & actions onto ‘Antifa’ & assorted ‘left wing’ entities. They seek to incite various types of bigotry, claiming to speak ‘common sense’ although operating within a void of empathy. They seek to encourage a resentment of learned expertise in favour of “common sense” (read: uninformed, purely intuitive belief - feelings over facts). By flooding the systems of communication with worthless noise, any valuable information is now competing in an over-saturated realm with malicious actors intent on misinforming you. Nationalism & reactionary politics so often harks back to imperialistic fantasies of superiority and cultivate half-truths and outright lies about history & reality. Begging for you to submit your critical faculties to blind nation worship against ‘PC WOKE ANTIFA PROTESTORS’. We hope to be at least a small part of the pushback, to make some effort against nihilistic complacency encouraged by hyper-normalisation.
Is collectivism, not individualism, the future? Can that combat the rise of the dark triad personality traits?
I imagine, ultimately, yes. Personally, I am of the belief that any and all systems of governance are destined to falter or fail, in part due to the allure of power leading those with Dark Triad tendencies to seek it. Once one set of Tyrants is removed it is only a matter of time before the ‘strongest’ of the ‘weak’ let this development in the power dynamic corrupt their best intentions. This is not to say that all people are equally as bad as each other, that all governments or systems are equally inefficient, but ultimately that few people are incorruptible. It is a rhyme that keeps recurring, people abusing power when given free reign to do so and enabled by ‘ungrateful, fickle liars and deceivers, cursed by greed until the grave’.
Ideally, we could see a true balance of individual and collective rights - the right to privacy & prosperity but not at the cost of collective well-being. However, we do not live in an ideal world. We are likely to see an overreach whichever path we take. But a path must ultimately be taken.
The most pressing issue we face is that our impact on the planet is accelerating our own extinction and without serious collective action it will continue this way. Whether it will be taken is another matter and the last year has been proof enough that even reasonable efforts to control global crises will face a backlash - whether real or ‘astroturfed’. To overcome resistance will require vigilance, which will become harder and harder the more divided society becomes. If we cannot learn to live & work together for even our own benefit, maybe we deserve our encroaching extinction? The optimist in me isn’t quite ready to immanentize the eschaton just yet!
You describe the metal genre as one largely dominated by selfish and elitist distortions of the truth. How did we get to that point and can it be ‘fixed’, as it were?
The Dark Triad is a symbol of something that is within us all, to varying degrees and without reaching the diagnosis of psychopathy, narcissism or Machiavellian conditions. I suspect as long as those tendencies exist within us there will be content portraying this and an audience to receive it, so I doubt it can be ‘fixed’ entirely. I’m going to be using that ‘V’ word again - while it may not be able to be permanently fixed, I think it can certainly be improved with vigilance.
If we can ‘fix’ it, how do you think that needs to happen?
I think the most pragmatic & likely effective approach, if you want to win hearts and minds, is to choose to avoid promulgating & funding such content yourself. This collective is not here to tell you to stop listening to all bands with a problematic history, we certainly haven’t, but we do think it is worth considering why you do listen to controversial acts. You may decide it is not worth buying their music/merchandise & instead to promote something that you do support.
Not all change can or will come immediately. There needs to be more and more bands producing counter-content and effective ways for audiences to find it. Then it will take time for these acts and scenes to gain public awareness & establish themselves. To be fair, I think this is already happening but it has to maintain or even increase it’s momentum. As previously stated, we hope our output will play a small role in this. With the increasing relevance of streaming platforms and metal influencers, this is certainly the current trajectory of how artists can and will connect to an audience. I think the ‘lefty metal community’ ought to nurture this format and keep their eyes open for whatever becomes it’s successor.
"There needs to be more and more bands producing counter-content and effective ways for audiences to find it."
The album itself is an amalgamation of all sorts of genres across the metal spectrum. How did you figure all of those into the writing?
It occurred naturally in how we approach composition. We are all fans of music in general, not just metal, and the concept at hand benefitted from the contrasting of styles both thematically and musically. The use of psychedelics likely also helped us bridge the gaps between genres in that it forces you into a different state of mind, often obsessing over patterns and intricate details.
The composition started with lyrics to inform the skeleton structure for demos to be recorded, then developed in group improvisation sessions & ample space to step away from the music. These improvisation sessions are where moments such as the ‘jazz’ section of ‘The Truth Of The Beast’ first emerged, whilst ‘An Inescapable Verdict’ & ‘Our Vile Roots…’ had non-metal elements even in their earliest renditions. Whilst we advise against blindly trusting intuition, our album flourished because of how we used it. Taking the time to compose/record demos, improvising around them to then step back and intuit where they ought to go. This allowed us to return with fresh and diverse ideas each time.
Was it always your intention to deliver something so densely layered that spans so many different styles?
Yes. We will always attempt to offer varied and dynamic output - be it an album, an EP or a split record or whatever opportunities arise. Expect there to be commonalities throughout our releases, but never the exact same outcome. We’re inspired by all sorts of bands, all manner of genres, we’re not going to be restricted by other people’s expectations. Whilst obviously being predominantly Metal, we’re convinced that the contrast achieved with genre, dynamic and Timbral shifts serves to heighten the impact and intensity of the extreme metal. It won’t be for everybody, the songs on ‘Dark Triad’ will be too drawn out & overwhelming for many, but the compositional choices we’ve made are part of our process as opposed to being an afterthought. We’re confident that’ll be the same of future releases.
"It’s not lost on us that we’re operating in the same space we’re openly criticising, but for all its ills social media does provide the positive benefit of allowing bands to reach vast swathes of the world from wherever they can find a connection."
Each song is about one of the dark triad; while that can make the songs self-contained, you’ve arguably designed the album to be best experienced as a single, cohesive whole. Is that itself a statement about individuals and collective works or am I reading too much into it at this point?
On this one, yes. The structure wasn’t conceived for that particular purpose, the intent was really how each trait interacts with and ‘compliments’ the others traits within Dark Triad - individually they’re negative attributes, together they’re the recipe for the nadir of humanity. Cold, cruel, vindictive manipulators. It’s also the nature of a Triptych for them to be ‘hinged together’ as one larger piece - the individual songs are composed to convey the traits they represent, connected by the themes & motifs. So it’s to do with enjoying the likes of Bosch, Bacon & Rubens as well as the influence of albums like ‘Metamorphogenesis’ by Esoteric.
This is your debut and the concept and the music feel very complete. Debuts can feel a bit scattershot and like a band finding their feet. How did you go about creating something like this where that isn’t the case?
Through the years of being in bands we’ve come to better understand the composition & the recording process, thus we all brought our experience into this. That’s at least a decade of successes and failures, learning and growing, which surely informed the development of this album. We were adamant that we take our time, only considering it finished when we truly believed it to be ourselves. Taking time allowed for us to step away when creative impasses arose, with each return giving fresh perspective to intuit what worked, what didn’t and where the songs should go. Maybe we’ll be able to work faster in the future, but don’t expect us to be a band releasing albums every two years.
The choice to be anonymous is one that’s been done before but it always had this air of secrecy or disconnect - you’re very active and personable on social media (whoever it is that runs the accounts) and as yet, there seems to be no attempts to unmask you. Do you think you’ve avoided that trap of disconnect, given the aim is to present the music as the most important thing rather than any individual member?
We’re lucky that there is someone willing & capable of handling our online interactions. If we want to be heard it logically follows that we must be present in the places where people can become aware of us. As we have no intentions of taking this studio band into a live setting, the internet is the obvious frontier to step into. It’s not lost on us that we’re operating in the same space we’re openly criticising, but for all its ills social media does provide the positive benefit of allowing bands to reach vast swathes of the world from wherever they can find a connection. The problem with this is, the same technology can be exploited by malicious actors to achieve far more than simply propagating music.
There is somewhat of a disconnect, after all we’re an anonymous group of people who people already assume are a trio because of our promo shots! Ultimately we’re not too bothered by that level of disconnect. We happy to tease that we’re aliens, but we’re not seriously seeking to portray ourselves as such, nor are we attempting to be another of the ‘most evil’ bands around to appeal to mindless goons. This may come as a surprise, but we’re… (probably) Human! This is a project that we’ve put so much time and passion into, so we want to show appreciation towards the people that give it their attention & who opine on it effusively! So we do hope to develop some connection with our audience, just a greatly limited one.
The greatest joy for us is in the creation, so whilst it is humbling to see a positive reception, we don’t want or need the personal adulation attached to us as individuals. We especially have no interest in living the negative side-effects that come from becoming a public figure addressing the extremes within society. Leave us to write dense, complex avant/prog bangers in the shadows and reemerge when we’re ready!
Dark Triad: Bitter Psalms To A Sordid Species is out now via Church Road Records