Epping Forest, the enigmatic blackened death metal band from Portugal, has been a favorite of mine for years. I remember scrolling through Christophe Szpajdel’s logo work and I came across Epping Forest’s. To this day that logo is the best I have ever seen, bar none. Having a logo created by the Lord of Logos isn’t a guarantee of success but it sure as hell helps. Anyways, I remember having trouble finding material from Epping Forest because at the time, 2006, they had no full length albums out. Still, I kept them in the back of my mind, searching every few months to see if there was anything new. Lo and behold! The band themselves contacted me and asked that I give a review of their album. I’m normally a sufferable egotistical person, being asked by one of your oldest favorite bands to review their brand new album? Yeah that’s gonna make me a little insufferable for a while. Okay beyond that, Epping Forest is a premier esoteric metal band, a band that infuses Middle Eastern instruments into their melodies without missing a beat and has an atmosphere that makes you question your sanity. You know the kind of music I’m talking about. Just a few days ago, lebaBVoid, their second full length album and the first in 8 years, flooded the unsuspecting masses.
The album, while not a pure concept album, has a strong narrative. Narrative is often something that I have found lacking in the esoteric metal subgenres. The music and atmosphere of bands like Inquisition and Deathspell Omega are undeniable superb, but what they lack is a cohesive story, an application of their album. Epping Forest gives us that narrative that esoteric metal needs, not to add legitimacy but to add depth. For Epping Forest, that narrative is the story of birth, life, death, and transcendence. Each song is like a rung on a ladder leading us both up and down, into the heights of consciousness and gnostic realization and into the abyss as that gnostic realization spawns a need to seek out the void. In a sense, this album is the active narrative of the famous Nietzsche quote, “And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” lebaBVoid, with each song, takes the listener closer to understanding exactly what that means. With each step we take in life, be it through age or through the acquisition of knowledge, we become aware of the frailties and weaknesses that surround us. The more we grow the more we understand that this world, the physical, cannot grow with us. Where, then, ought we look to find a place to grow? The heavens? Why? The abyss calls to us as we move down our path because the void, the abyss, can offer us something that heaven cannot. We can create our own reality in the abyss. In heaven we are trapped in the idealized path of existence of some other being. In heaven we would be made slaves. Epping Forest urges the listener to look elsewhere, to look within and without while seeking not a higher authority, but a higher plane of existence. We travel through life, trudging and scrapping when we could be transcending. lebaBVoid offers us a glimpse into the path we must take, shows us glimpse of the arcane powers. We are made aware of the typhonian forces that surround this existence, ready to devour it at any moment. lebaBVoid is the journey to the source of power that only the individual can use to fight back against these forces. Only the individual can attain the path to this fountain, this knowledge of doom. We cannot die, we may shed the coil but we are never off the path to transcendence and pure profane knowledge.
Epping Forest is more than a badass logo. These men are able to effortlessly weave ancient Middle Eastern melodies together with thick, monstrous black metal riffs. It’s a bit like weaving wool and cat gut together to make a blanket but they pull it off. They utilize the atmospheres afforded to them by their blackened death metal sound but they aren’t content with such making music the way it’s been heard so many times before. I think my research into ritual ambient has added me significantly in my attempts to analyze esoteric metal like Epping Forest. The two genres could not be more different in their overall sound but they use many of the same techniques to create an atmosphere that sets itself apart from the rest of the music genres. With every riff, you can tell there is something behind it, a deeper meaning.
Epping Forest takes a lot of cues from bands like Absu, Melechesh, and Behemoth but they undeniably create their own sound within that group (and what a group to be a part of!) They utilize so many instruments on the album beyond the typical guitar and drums. Pianos, classical guitars, synths, traditional instruments, and even what sounds like a saxophone (I had to listen to Affair – the cures and the heal several times to confirm I wasn’t going crazy), they all come together to create a feast for the ears. Often the Middle Eastern themes are played in contrast to the metal but at the same time, dueling themes each with their own esoteric pull and strength. Their vocals, too, don’t stick to just the harsh end of the spectrum. They use a host of styles, from haunting female solos that summon the bestial nature of the Middle Eastern music to a choir that feels like it might have been taking from Carcosa and clean male vocals that seethe and writhe with poison. Epping Forest pulled out all the stops for this album, nothing is overlooked. The production is beautiful and clear yet the atmosphere is harsh and unfriendly. The music echoes wickedly, as if the music itself was performed in the chapel of some abandoned church, the sound is full and cathedral-esque, the sounds are rich and moving yet don’t sound fake or synthetic, the traditional instruments and melodies feel organic, as if they grew out of the electronic music and began forming on their own.
The great story of life, death, what lies between those, and what lies beyond them, Epping Forest did not take it easy on this album. The themes and the music itself is a triumph, a jewel in the crown of a band I have admired for years. Epping Forest takes a step outside of the shadows of their peers and begin to forge their own name, their own destiny. It is with albums like lebaBVoid that genres are defined by. Epping Forest is helping reshape the esoteric genre with a narrative worthy of ritual ambient and they are expanding the sonic capabilities of blackened death metal. The Resounding Footsteps Seal of Approval is going on this release. Grab it now!
If you liked this release you may like: Melechesh, Absu, Inquisition, Grand Belial’s Key
Listen and support the music!