Another week, another review of a Transcending Obscurity release. What else is new? 2018 appears to be the year of the underground, and with some unique and talented international bands on their roster, the India-based label seems poised to propel some awesome music into the spotlight for many years to come. Bless them for it. Their latest salvo comes from Et Moriemur, who play a style of atmospheric doom metal that transcends the stylistic boundaries of the subgenre by incorporating a wide swath of musical elements into their massively heavy stew. But this isn’t a particularly uncommon songwriting strategy, if we’re being honest. Metal as a whole has opened its doors to many different genres, and this is without question a good thing for the future of extreme music. The expansion of metal’s borders has led to unique new hybrids of sound that we wouldn’t otherwise hear, but it doesn’t always translate into good music. With their third full-length outing, Epigrammata, Et Moriemur attempt to corral this adventurous spirit by creating an album that is almost dizzying in its sonic ambition. There are strings, keys, guitars, drums, clean/harsh vocals, and Gregorian chants all contained within the walls of this oddity of a doom epic. It’s a trip, and one well worth taking.
From the opening seconds of the album’s first track, “Introitus”, it becomes clear that Et Moriemur aren’t pulling any emotional punches. The music is somber, beautiful, and laced with a sweet sort of sadness. Which is fitting, given the album’s themes. In discussing this record, the band have been very clear about Epigrammata being a sonic expression of the struggle to cope with the death of loved ones. This is some Bell Witch territory, and the band handle the subject matter at hand with grace and creativity both within the music and the lyrical content. With this material presented in both Greek and Latin (as well as song titles that follow the traditional requiem structure), Et Moriemur certainly don’t lack for thematic ambition, either. Thankfully, this far-reaching vision of loss and resolution is coupled with a great deal of poise and control in its delivery. This mixture can be found in the vocals of this particular track, which mix spoken-word recitation with an angelic vocal harmony in a way that feels both mournful and victorious without coming off as pretentious. This rare dichotomy sets the stage for the tone that the album will take throughout its runtime.
The album’s second track “Requiem Aeternam” introduces Zdenek Nevelik’s raspy, harsh vocals, as well as Ales Vilingr and Pavel Janouskovek’s raging guitars with vigor and ferocity. A stirring string section also makes an appearance, adding an additional melancholic layer to the track. There’s a lot going on here, but it’s a testament to the band’s skill as songwriters that it all fits together so nicely. Tack on some Gregorian chant and Michal Rak’s dramatic, measured drumming and you have music that feels very akin to that found in Batushka’s incredible debut, though taken in a doom rather than black metal direction. This mixture of elements is a key component of this record’s success. Throughout Epigrammata, Et Moriemur consistently strike a healthy balance of sound. “Agnus Dei” opens with a compelling key section that rolls into some pretty epic doom slaying. Subsequent track “Dies Irae” displays a juxtaposition of gorgeous, choir-led clean sections and harsh growls that fits the music like a glove, while “Communio” lurches out of the gate with some traditional heavy metal swagger. “Libera Me” includes some great acoustic moments (played with admirable restraint by Hanza Kapak) that eventually morph into the creepy, circus-like gyrations of “Absolve Domine”. The kaleidoscope of styles and sounds contained in Epigrammata is honestly pretty staggering, which makes its success as a whole body of work all the more impressive. Closing in style with the epic, ten-plus minute “In Paradisum”, all of the disparate elements contained throughout the record coalesce into a powerful closing statement that is as sonically diverse as the rest of the album, capturing its essence and spirit admirably. It’s a stirring finish to a curious, captivating record.
Overall, one’s take on Epigrammata will boil down to how you feel these disparate sonic elements gel together. There’s a ton of variety on this record, but the presentation of these elements feels simultaneously adventurous and uniform. It’s a hard balance to strike, and Et Moriemur pull it off with panache and skill. This is a musically and emotionally heavy record that that defies simple categorization, and is all the better for it. A sonic journey of the highest order, Epigrammata is unpredictable and deeply enjoyable from start to finish. Those who love their doom atmospheric and epic would do themselves a disservice to pass on this one.
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Epigrammata will be released on March 20th via Transcending Obscurity Records, and is available for pre-order in digital and physical formats on the band’s Bandcamp page.