In the initial press release announcing the signing and the release of the album, AFM Records called Epitaph - Pyramaze’s sixth full length - their most melodic and accessible yet. Epitaph comes three years after game changing career highlight Contingent (2017) and five years after the band’s return from limbo with a few new faces to the lineup. Less focused on heaviness and the progressive hitherto always present in the band’s style Epitaph instead indeed goes the route of accessibility. This might be a flaw, but the songwriting and the talent in the musicianship weighs up for it; songwriter, guitarist and bassist Jacob Hansen has heaps of expertise in the area after all. Opening on the titular intro, a cinematic two minute piece by keyboardist Jonah Weingarten, it shows his soundscape will very much color the album, tying it closely to the entire Pyramaze discography. His inimitable style is both introspective and epic at the same time, a flair for the dramatic which blends well with Hansen and Toke Skjønnemand’s weighty riffage. So immediately Epitaph unveils itself a familiar experience but taken to new twists and turns.
A Stroke of Magic was the first single, and is a stunning track that could well fit on either Contingent or Disciples of the Sun (2015). It presents the exact type of weighty power metal, crushing guitars and melodic lead play, Weingarten’s cinematic symphonic backdrop completing the sound, that made the previous album so great. Steal My Crown introduces an overly poppy sound to Weingarten’s keys landing a sound not too far from the Amaranthine or even Beast in Black - an attempt that doesn’t fit Pyramaze, though the song is otherwise not too shabby. Thankfully, it is the most egregious example of this, as Knights in Shining Armour brings guitars speedy and melodi in equal measure, and crushing double bass drums back to the table, the chorus delivering some of the most memorable vocal lines on the entire album. That’s where Terje Harøy comes in; the man has continued to grow since the previous album, and has become an absolute titan. His delivery in the melodic choruses manages to be as formidable as the weight put behind every syllable in the heaviest moments; no part is under delivered, from the poppier and simplistic builds of single Particle to that most colossal of closers…
We probably also need to talk about The Time Traveller. The twelve minute epic ends the album, and is complete fan service while also being one of the deepest cuts the band has made. Featuring guest spots from the band’s previous vocalists, Lance King and the immortal Matt Barlow (Ashes of Ares), it is the album’s deepest foray into progressive realms and a massive show of force from drummer Morten Gade Sørensen. There are nods in the riffing to the old Michael Kammeyer style of Melancholy Beast (2004) and the mystic sound of Immortal (2008), while still being firmly rooted in their newer style. It is an absolute unit of a song and it is impossible not to love. When Epitaph was announced I immediately called the shot; album of the year. It is not. But while there are moments and directions that don’t tickle my fancies and even some filler to pad the runtime, that is mostly because there have been other albums that much greater. Epitaph still delivers and proves to grow with each listen. It feels in many respects a prequel to its predecessor rather than take all its greatness and making it even greater, and that might be the biggest drawback of being the most melodic and accessible album in the formidable Pyramaze discography.
Standout tracks: A Stroke of Magic, Knights in Shining Armour, The Time Traveller