Release year: 2019
Bulgarian Dimholt have a career stretching back to 2003 behind them, but only two full-length albums and a couple of smaller releases to their name. Obviously, rushing things isn’t their thing, and when listening to Epistēmē, their second album, it is equally obvious the end results have benefited from this greatly.
Dimholt’s approach to black metal is sort of two-and-a-halfth wave, which isn’t even a thing but I’m still using the term. The foundation is in deeply traditional second wave black metal, but through small musical nuances and an overall atmosphere that doesn’t lend itself to the crude satanism or romantic paganism, Dimholt well and truly set a distance between themselves and the second wave.
Dimholt’s sound is at the same time rather familiar and yet not. Obviously, they’ve listened to and absorbed a lot from black metal made from the early 90’s to the mid noughties. Throughout Epistēmē, more or less obvious and striking similarities to this or that artist or classic album will rise, but there’s no single influence dominating the entire album. The end result is a witches’ brew of influences that makes for an interesting mix. I wouldn’t call Dimholt’s sound original in the sense that it offers an unique take on the genre; but despite being built of familiar elements, it is original in how Dimholt have put those pieces together for Epistēmē.
I might of course be wrong and Epistēmē was whipped together in a weekend just before entering the studio, but I’m ready to venture a guess that the album was composed with time, patience, reflection and a lot of work. Whilst the songs themselves aren’t intricate in the sense some prog metal song would be, there’s a lot of variation throughout the album, but still a coherent balance. Slower sections mix with blasting, riff-driven aggression alternates with shapeless introvert atmospherics and small doses of discordant guitarwork, the occasional use of softer guitar tones or acoustic guitars gives a small respite from the black metal onslaught. Epistēmē sounds like an album that has been thoroughly thought through, and in a good way. It doesn’t sound like a collection of songs, but like a unified creation where the songs serve the whole.
As said above, one of the things that separates Dimholt from pure second wave black metal rehashing is the over-arching atmosphere on Epistēmē. This isn’t crudely satanic or romantically pagan, there isn’t that sense of outlashing, outward directed nature to the music. There is a strong inward turning, introverted feel to the album – but not in the sense of self-deprecating, self-pity wallowing “depressive black metal” bands. The introvert nature of Epistēmē is not a darkness that turns on and devours itself, but a darkness that turns unto itself and finds strength in itself. Vocalist Woundheir’s hoarse, stoic and dispassionate vocal delivery accentuates this.
Epistēmē is a fine album, but it does have a few shortcomings, the most serious of which is its length: at about 63 minutes, it drags on for a bit too long. Whilst there isn’t anything that feels like filler material, the album is just too long to keep up concentrated interest. Inevitably you start looking at the clock and hoping it’d be over with. This compounds the other, in itself far less serious, issue: the lack of standout tracks. The material is strong and of an even, good quality, but on an album this long, the lack of “hit” songs leaves one wanting.
However, even when those two points of criticism are taken into account, Epistēmē is a good album. Built of familiar bits and pieces, but original in its composition, varied but still coherent, Epistēmē is one of those albums that does demand a bit of time and effort to get a grip on, but it’s worth the effort.