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Epilog - Providence Asylum Award winner

Epilog
Providence Asylum
by Mike Peacock at 14 February 2022, 3:50 PM

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal is here again.  But this time, it’s not from Britain. It’s from the Czech Republic. Released on September 24, 2021, Czechia’s EPILOG have released their fifth full-length album “Providence Asylum,” courtesy of Smile Music.

Now to be honest, at first, I was a little taken aback by the in-your face approach the band took in regard to honoring their influences from the usual suspects, namely IRON MAIDEN, SAXON, and JUDAS PRIEST. In that order. This album is dripping with the classic British metal sound. I was almost resolved to forward through the songs and give them a half-listen, thinking I had already made up my mind about what the band had to offer.

Almost.

But something in me was enticed enough by the well-executed musicianship and catchy hooks to give it a proper go.  And let me tell you: I’m glad I did. By the third song, I was fully immersed and invested in absorbing everything about this album, so much that I immediately went back and listened to it again, which I rarely do. After verbally berating myself for my initial narrow-mindedness, I gathered my thoughts and set to work describing my experience.

There’s a saying in the music biz: “Everything’s derivative.” And to a point, it’s true. A purely original thought or idea in music is truly a magical unicorn. And those that try to cover that fabled ground often struggle in obscurity, relegated to art-house collections in the name of artistry and personal musical integrity. What EPILOG have done with “Providence Asylum” is create in a near-perfect fusion of classic and modern metal that is heavy, melodic, dark, emotional, and catchy as fuck.

The album’s opener (and title track), “Providence Asylum,” hits you immediately with some killer chunky rhythms, melodic passages, and a powerful throaty scream. Lundgren’s voice is somewhat Dickinsonian with a touch of Halfordism and Dio-essence. And that equates to power. His range is proudly put on display in this song, and he does a great job of balancing the power with the melody. At times clean, at times gravelly, he truly utilizes his voice as an instrument to convey these dark messages. “Elder Gods” starts off a little slower, with some semi-clean guitars, but then launches into the metal with a mid-paced tempo and a great display of more vocal diversity.

Sanctuary” picks the pace back up. This is a fast, rockin’ tune that is almost Priest-like in its delivery and is perhaps the most upbeat song on the album.  The next track, “Horror Show,” gives up the creepy-uncle vibe with the eerie circus music intro that quickly moves into a powerful and melodic opus with awesome layered vocals (which they do very well on this album) that at times almost get growly (but not quite). There is also some cool shred-tastic lead work that had me ready to bust out my air guitar. We take a journey “Into the Unknown” with the next track. This one is heavy as balls, with a chuggy metal intro and some killer double-bass drumming which, by the way, is perfectly utilized on this album. EPILOG have a cool formula where these double-bass parts are often played over slower held-out power chords and melody/harmony passages rather than simply blasting away on the fast parts. It’s very effective and one of my favorite parts of this album. This song also features some cool slide guitar followed by some frenetic scale-running that almost stressed me out and raised my blood pressure (just a little) as well as a catchy-as-fuck chorus and some killer screams.

My favorite track on this album, “Forest and the City,” gives us another theatrical soundscape to get things moving before leading us down a SABBATH-like doomy, sludgy, headbang-inducing tunnel of despair. And, in truly MAIDEN-inspired fashion, we transition without warning from a slow dirge into a fast-chugging rhythm topped with epic harmony leads. This seven-plus minute epic is clearly this album’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” encompassing a broad range of styles, tempos, and feelings. But at no point does it drag or entice you to skip to the next track, as songs above 6 minutes tend to do with first time-listeners. There’s no “I’ll come back to this later.”  That seven minutes went by quick (That’s what she said).

The next two tracks, “Colour Out of Space” and “Rising,” showcase more of the same and really don’t stand out on their own as much as the others. “Melancholy,” on the other hand, rips away your music high and casts you into a downward spiral courtesy of the sad keyboards and clean guitars. The title for this ballad is quite apt, it’s definitely the darkest tune on the album, but then the guitars come back in classic metal fashion and out of nowhere we’re hit with a short but tasty – wait for it- saxophone interlude. Yes, a bit of sultry sax to bring it back down, somewhat reminiscent of the title track from QUEENSRÿCHE’s “Promised Land”.

And to end it all, (symbolically, kids) the album closes with another 7-minute epic, “Theater of Sins.” This song is a perfect closing track and showcases the most diversity of all the songs: doomy chunkiness, galloping thrashiness, melodic shreddiness, powerful double-kickiness, rumbling yet articulate baseness, and of course abso-fuckin-lutely killer layered vocals that hit the entire rage of Lundgren’s capabilities.

Fans of the classic British metal acts will definitely appreciate this album, as will fans of DIO, ICED EARTH, ACCEPT and other classic acts from the 80’s through early 2000’s. Don’t mistake that as me saying the band sounds old. It’s quite the opposite- the production is great with a very modern sound- great bass tones and killer lines by bassist Radek Ciprys, über-polished vocal delivery, and a nice drum sound from Martin Nohava, although the drums could be brought a little higher in the mix. The guitars work nicely together, often with Lundgren and lead guitarist Karel Fejtl playing distinctly separate parts to keep it fresh and interesting, though not necessarily with enough technicality or originality to be considered truly “progressive.”

Providence Asylum” is a heavy, powerful, and melodic album that has a consistent feel and very story-telly vibe to it. The overall themes of insanity, despair, and oppression with Lovecraftian overtones doesn’t quite get into concept album territory, but listeners will definitely feel a coherent message throughout all of the songs. Fans that opt to purchase a physical CD package will be treated to an absolutely awe-inspiring gallery of artwork to accompany the lyrics. The cover art by Vladimir Žákovič is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and the inside art is no different. EPILOG clearly put a lot of thought, time, and resources into creating a truly artistic musical experience that you don’t want to miss.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Providence Asylum
2. Elder Gods
3. Sanctuary
4. Horror Show
5. Into the Unknown
6. Forest and the City
7. Colour Out of Space
8. Rising
9. Melancholy
10. Theater of Sins
Lineup:
Rob Lundgren - Vocals
Michael Zemen – Guitars/Keyboards
Radek Ciprys - Bass
Karel Fejtl – Lead Guitars
Martin Nohava – Drums
Record Label: Smile Music
     


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