Prepare Ye for the Feast of the Epiphany

  • Satan Rosenbloom

Feast of the Epiphany helmsman Nick Podgurski drums in Brooklyn’s freakishly good prog-pop renaissance revivalists, Extra Life. If you’re one of the seven MetalSucks readers that actually listens to that band, it should come as no surprise that Podgurski follows a highly mercurial muse with his own music (also, let’s hang out). Over the past two years, Feast of the Epiphany has issued a steady stream of audio curios, ranging from tricky experimental pop to clanking percussion collages to ambient synthscapes.

Podgurski’s newest offering takes Feast of the Epiphany in another direction altogether. You know those first 30 seconds of …And Justice for All (you can listen to it on Spotify now)? Those dense, interwoven guitar harmonies with sustain for days, playing without any accompaniment? Haven’t you always wanted those 30 seconds to extend across an entire album, maybe with a dude singing medieval modes over it? No? Well that’s what you get on Temperance.

You could spend fruitless hours picking apart Feast of Epiphany’s sound, trying to figure out where Podgurski’s keyboards end and Andrew Hock’s guitars and Tony Gedrich’s bass begin. They’re all mushed into a numbing midrange on “Suffering” and “Humanity” and “Second Pulse,” and the sound stays thick and overblown throughout, as if some uncredited pilot is accompanying the band with a tuneful jet engine.

At first, it comes across like one big headscratch. Why write such intricate guitar/bass counterpoint if it’s all going to get covered over by buzzing synth molasses? Why ask Mick Barr (Krallice/Orthrelm) to contribute a guest guitar solo on “Suffering” if it’s just going to emerge and disappear with such little fanfare? And why not add drums to some of these songs to help navigate their complex rhythms?

But once you get used to its unique sonics, Temperance begins to radiate. Listen to “Hierophant” or “Setting the Soul’s Divide” on headphones and that all-consuming synth bed recedes, becomes a warming presence. It illuminates the delicate guitar writing, melts the nasal edges off Podgurski’s soaring vocal lines, blends all the individual parts into an embroidered whole. Even the lack of drums starts to make sense. They would end up defining Temperance, preventing its parts from melding as fully.

So why review an album as un-metal as Temperance on a metal website? Partly as a reminder of how exploratory this culture can be. Feast of the Epiphany’s members have played in heavy, progressive-minded bands like Castevet, Biolich, Ehnahre, IconChasm and Yukon, and now this strange un-heavy floating soundworld of an album is part of their story. So that’s cool.

I’d also argue that the density of FotP’s sound is something that could resonate a lot with metal listeners. So many sub-genres of metal – doom and black in particular – feature walls of sound that at first overpower but then uplift. There’s that same dynamic at work on Temperance. It’s an album that’s only loosely federated with heavy metal but probably wouldn’t have been made by someone who doesn’t understand it.

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