God Is An Astronaut’s powerfully-atmospheric and emotive new album ‘Epitaph’ is their ninth and comes a decade and a half into a journey that began with 2002’s ‘The End Of The Beginning’.
‘Epitaph’ marks the band’s debut on independent label Napalm Records and is a record that both sees a progression in their sound while still remaining true to their ethos that helped define the band.
Fans may have expected a continuation of 2015`s "Helios | Erebus" but a change in direction was unavoidable when real-life tragedies occurred involving family close to the band. The cover artwork was painted by French artist Fursy Teyssier (http://www.lesdiscrets.com
) and fits the melancholic mood beautifully.
Niels and Torsten Kinsella, twin brothers and co-founders of God Is An Astronaut, are joined again here by long-time drummer Lloyd Hanney. Amongst others, contributions also come from Xenon Field on sound design, former member Jamie Dean on keys, Jimmy Scanlon once again lends his talents on guitar and Brian Harris performs slide guitar on the song "Mortal Coil”.
The opening title track ‘Epitaph’ sets out the album’s stall. There is pain and loss at work here, but not pain and loss that are given in to. It’s better to try to make sense of them, to try to bottle up these energies into something transcendental that can soothe and console, offer up hope almost.
‘Mortal Coil’ explores the theme of release experienced when a troubled existence ends. A life can end up being such a painful experience that its owner wants out, not because of the hedonistic allure of death but simply because of the relief of the release through suicide.
‘Winter Dusk/Awakening’ is the oldest song on here, it was written before the album changed course. Yet it fits beautifully. It’s as if it was meant to be on here, as if it was an unexplained and inexplicable foreshadowing of events that were about to unfold. The drums are sublime at key parts of the track.
‘Séance Room’, the album’s middle track, is a great bridge between the first three tracks and the last three. The album changes direction slightly with this track, and you don’t know what will come next. You know there is more of substance to follow, that the music on this highway is taking you someplace meaningful and special. The track itself is very science fiction; a séance is a meeting at which you attempt to make contact with those who have passed on, but how do you know who you will actually get through to? Cosmic wires can get crossed just as much as earthly ones.
‘Komorebi’ is a word from Japanese. Think of the interplay between light and leaves when sunlight shines through trees. A blurring between near and far. The song has a melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away from you or about to slip away. The word and the music dovetail perfectly, creating something greater than the sum of their parts; alchemy at work.
‘Medea’ references Greek mythology, and the enchantress who married Jason, leader of the Argonauts, only to be later guilty of filicide, a crime so against the natural order of things that you can imagine the stars in the sky weeping. It is not easy to confront such things, but this record and this band don’t shirk the challenge.
Finally, the beautiful and hypnotic piece of music that is the album-closing ‘Oisín’ is in memory of Torsten and Niels` 7-year-old cousin who was tragically taken from this world. It distils into four minutes all the pain, sadness and longing felt by many over a much-longer timeframe. A fitting end to an album that will move you deeply and call out to you to be revisited many times.
This album, with its stylish and rich musical textures has in its building blocks references to the past, as with a lot of the band’s work. When present experiences are pulled in to the mix you get something that will last well into the future, armed with music like this you are strengthened for that journey.