The anonymous trio elaborate on their efforts to shift the zeitgeist via the art of metal.
Just a few days ago, the world came to know of the anonymous new trio, EPIPHANIC TRUTH. With black hooded robes and masks to preserve their obscurity, the band stray from narcissism and hone their approach on the collective rather than the self, a feat further elaborated upon with the conceptual Triptych that is their forthcoming record, Dark Triad: Bitter Psalms to a Sordid Species. Psychopathy, narcissism and machiavellianism converge on Dark Triad in a sonic form that pulls from death, black, and doom metals in a way that also incorporates the complexities of jazz. Focus not on their identities but the body of work that results, that being Dark Triad.
Arriving on May 21st via Church Road Records, Dark Triad walks the fine line of avant-garde and showcases the progressive qualities of the members at play. The record, which comes illustrated by the talented Christine Violet, is far from a linear listen, and intentionally so. Whether it be the Imperial Triumphant-like black metal fusion or the evolving song structures, what EPIPHANIC TRUTH have put together here is nothing short of substantial. This beautiful pairing of insightful lyricism and mature songwriting is a sociopolitical case study worth diving into for the goal is not simply to educate, but to invoke optimism and remind one of our shared humanity.
We go in-depth with EPIPHANIC TRUTH to understand the complexities behind the ambitious debut that is Dark Triad, further elaborating on why it serves a larger purpose:
‘Dark Triad: Bitter Psalms to a Sordid Species’ has now seen the light, and so has your existence as a newly fledged unit. Debut records are an entry point that sees the beginning of a band’s evolution as they seek out their sound. However, ‘Dark Triad’ showcases talents that speak to an honest camaraderie between the members present. Where did you look to take this debut?
ET: We don’t feel like we’re seeking out a sound. Instead we’d suggest that we already have one figured out - one that starts from extreme metal and its various iterations, branching out into other extreme forms of music as well as seemingly contradictory genres that bring greater dynamism or contrast to the whole.
As others have done before us, we seek to take extreme metal away from orthodoxy and create our own output saying something honest and unique to us. Hopefully we create something with a greater sense of balance than pure LaVeyan infused Individualism. Another aspect we’re keen to explore is the blurring of the lines of acoustic/analogue and digital instrumentation, something we look to push further with each album - both thematically and musically.
This record certainly serves as a solid foundation for that. What 'Dark Triad' lacks in track quantity it makes up for in substance with each track presenting itself as a palette of sound that coalesces seamlessly, making for an engaging listen. This is clearly a result of a collaborative effort between you all that is equal parts multidisciplinary and talented. How did you look to approach ‘Dark Triad’ structurally, especially given how jazz, black metal, doom metal, ambient, and more interplay together?
ET: The composition largely centered around the lyrics. Using the Dark Triad of personality disorders (DTOPD) as themes for each song gave a clear directive for each track, with lyrical drafts formed to then help inform the skeleton structure for the music. The structures developed from singular, linked motifs written for each track alongside the writing of the draft lyrics. These arrangements became the first demo recordings and, after some sessions of improvisation, they transformed into what appears on the album. The recording sessions saw some further development of finer details after the drums had been completed. We commissioned Wilfred Ho to record the drums, which involved a degree of instruction from us and improvisation on his part. There were certain segments that we wanted done in specific ways, but in the remaining spaces we knew to simply leave Wilfred to do what he does best.
We consciously allowed plenty of time for the album to ‘breathe’ and reveal itself over time rather than force progress. A lot of thought went into this album, but intuition arguably played a greater role. As cliché as it may be, each song is meant to be a journey that follows a path we’ve laid out. It needed to be sincere and feel natural, art that we can justify intellectually and intuitively.
Not cliché at all. Quite the contrary actually, it truly feels like a walk through a constantly developing plot. In terms of the cover art, you’ve partnered with Christine Violet, who arranges a kaleidoscope of figures converging at the center, elaborating on that of the conceptual Triptych you craft throughout ‘Dark Triad’. Visually, what were you looking for when approaching Christine for the project?
ET: We sought artwork reminiscent of a psychedelic experience, depicting the unveiling of the subconscious. Psilocin has had it’s own role in inspiring the creation and composition of the album, most pronounced in the ideas for the artwork & music videos.
The artist who most informed our vision was Paul Laffoley, whose work is not related to our own beyond displaying an abstract, hallucinatory quality we hoped to achieve. Our earliest ideas tried to illustrate the concept in a visual style akin to ‘Alchemy: The Telenomic Process Of The Universe’. The basic ideas of the Triad & Vortex were there from the start, although originally we pictured the Triad being the front cover and the Vortex being the back cover.
We were not sure where to begin looking, so simply scoured the internet to find a number of suitable artists. Not long after finding her work, we decided to approach Christine and it worked out perfectly.
Christine’s illustrations of course focus on occultism and mythology, the likes of which are beautifully detailed and shaded. Of the many artists available for collaboration, what drew you to Christine’s work as you approached this element of the release?
ET: What drew us to Christine’s work was the level of detail demonstrated, her pieces involving the merging of different lifeforms and the darkly psychedelic nature of her entire portfolio. With Paul Laffoley’s key artistic inspiration, we felt confident that she’d understand what we appreciated of his work and be able to inform her work from that while utilizing her own style and methods. Hopefully she found it to be a worthwhile challenge.
Collectively, we’re intrigued by occult and mythological art and symbolism, so Christine’s portfolio assured us that the process ought to be straight forward. We were not proven wrong, all our requests were met and only small adjustments had to be made to minor details.
The cover illustration is an obvious extension of the themes and concepts touched upon, putting a face to the dire but very necessary subject material. As audiences listen through the record, where do you find a connection with the painting in relation to the actual music?
ET: The music will hopefully be perceived much the same as the artwork, darkly psychedelic in the truest sense of the word - Psyche, meaning mind or soul, and delos, meaning to manifest or to make visible. The album is a light being shone upon the dark recesses of our minds.
The artwork depicts events occurring in a space akin to the ‘collective unconscious’. The vortex is the interconnection of all life, bound by a sprawling evolutionary lineage driven by selfish instincts that provide an evolutionary advantage - the most pernicious being the traits of the DTOPD. The Vortex leads towards the Dark Triad in the distance, which comes into focus on the back cover. Demonstrating the clearest influence of Laffoley, the Dark Triad contains ‘trait orbs’ depicting negative attributes most aptly associated with those seeking/maintaining inordinate power. It shouldn’t require prolonged reflection to extrapolate the meaning of the art into reality.
Crows, deer, snakes, and so much more are intentionally fixed between the roots. Was the illustration particularly guided to fit certain parameters or was it a result of Christine’s artistic interpretation of the themes you presented?
ET: It started with clear instruction to enable Christine to follow her intuition. We provided basic sketches and explained the intended symbolism behind them. She appreciated the concept and set about sketching digital drafts, translating our ideas into her style. Once we had discussed and agreed upon the drafts, Christine completed detailed pencil drawings of the vortex, triad & trait orbs. Next came the inking process, followed by scanning the inked drawings to colour them in digitally. As with our music, Christine’s art style was a blend of ‘analogue’ and ‘digital’.
Thanks for the insight! It's truly amazing to see it all come together, especially from sketch to final product. As far as your own visual identity, Epiphanic Truth embraces anonymity and focuses on the collective rather than the self, addressing a society’s self-destructive tendencies as they pertain to the sociopolitical realm amidst other phenomena. Where does ‘Dark Triad’ stand among it all?
ET: The anonymity is in part a rejection of the narcissistic individualism of self promotion. We don’t seek recognition for ourselves, we seek only to advertise the content we create and the messages we propagate. This is not to call our collaborators narcissists as, unlike us, they make their livings from the work we commissioned and thus need to create awareness of their contribution for continued work opportunities. Our ‘anti-image’ is an image in and of itself, but for our purpose it is preferable to the alternatives.
People talk of ‘history repeating itself’ but we argue that history ‘rhymes’ - Similar patterns recur throughout history with subtle differences caused by various factors inherent to the time period. Our current era is a time where the demons of the past are rearing their heads in the new age of the internet.
Our perception is that the current zeitgeist is increasingly detached from reality and there is a concerted assault on the concept of truth. A consistent muddying of the waters that is conducted by those who understand complex realities are harder to communicate than oversimplified distortions, where the repetition of lies will lead to a certain proportion of people believing said lies. We are becoming attuned to how Cyberspace is a frontier that has enabled sophisticated communication throughout the entire world alongside the collection & processing of data produced within this space. The oversimplified distortions of reality have a new realm in which to fester, new tools to target and disperse them and those in positions of power increasingly understand the relevance this space has to the ‘real world’ and how both worlds can be manipulated to their advantage.
People who rightly criticize the lies of Blair’s Labour will casually justify the gaslighting of the last decade by successive Conservative governments, often convinced that there is no alternative. The truth is alternatives exist but require vast effort to establish, vigilance to maintain, are fraught with risks of their own and threaten the established power structures. Brexit was presented as a preferable alternative to dispose of one particular power structure, but as each lie unravels it becomes ever more apparent that the promises were yet more oversimplified distortions of a much more complex reality.
‘Dark Triad’ is in part an effort to counteract the shift towards ‘the right’. However, we are not deluding ourselves that ‘the left’ is innately virtuous or capable of implementing Utopia. In an imperfect world, we perceive ‘the left’ as presenting the best opportunity of dealing with the complex realities (climate change, systemic bigotry, wealth inequality, data crimes, cyberspace regulation, corruption etc.) as opposed to continuing to dig deeper into the reactionary ditch we’re in.
The DTOPD is contained within all of us, exhibited in varying degrees, it is a part of our evolution. This album is not intending to celebrate or revel in negative and/or destructive emotions/actions but instead it hopes to push back against them. To deal with any issue you must acknowledge the problem exists and then you must come to understand it.
In the contemporary, fast paced environment of work, school, and responsibilities in general driving one towards a lifestyle where convenience and ease is the optimal choice, do you feel as though this message can be easily overlooked given the patience that the record asks of listeners?
ET: Absolutely. We’re not providing pithy answers and we realize there are no permanent, satisfying solutions to the problems we address. Much of life is choosing the least worst of available options. We do not expect to garner a wide audience but the hope is, at the very least, we provide a stepping stone for other artists or listeners to see that you should not buy into simplified, delusional narratives such as the western world being destroyed by ‘cultural Marxism’, amongst other rebranding of Nazi tropes. Do not believe those quoting Orwell yet telling you ‘maybe 2+2 does equal 5, depending upon your perception’. Ignore the free speech warriors with their defamation lawyers on speed dial. In the newly touted ‘war against woke’, we suggest it is wiser to be awake than comatose.
Got it. There's much to dissect on there, and can only recommend audiences to do so patiently. Visually, it does spark some intrigue in relation to how complex the music itself is. That said, was there ever an album, book, or even movie cover that has had the impact of making you pick it up without having prior knowledge of it?
ET: I can think of a perfect example for myself - my cousins introduced me to ‘Brit Pop’ and one of the bands that has stuck with me to this day is Kula Shaker. Their album artwork for their debut ‘K’ (1996) absolutely captivated me and definitely made it a more attractive prospect than Blur, Oasis, Suede et al. I can’t say I’ve consciously been drawn to music, books or films for the covers alone as an adult - I’m more inclined to seek specific genres and themes and go from there. A good synopsis alone is enough to cultivate my interest in a particular album, book, film or game.
I don't think I've seen this one before. Great choice! With the pandemic keeping one at home, or at least should be, many have changed their approach to engaging with music, putting more of an intention into the meanings packed within. ‘Dark Triad’ is as much a commentary on the contemporary human experience as it is an enthralling listen. What do you hope audiences take from it come May 21st?
ET: First of all, we hope that it provides some sort of enjoyment or evokes a deep, sincere emotion. That is likely the greatest compliment of all, to know that your work deeply affects someone. Music changed our lives and so the dream is that yours will do the same for others.
Beyond this, we hope it helps in shifting the zeitgeist - something we believe is already happening with acts like Svalbard, Dawn Ray’d, Venom Prison, Odoacer et al. Art is, or at least can be, propaganda - as in, it attempts to propagate a particular narrative. Extreme Metal often propagates a narrative that breeds nihilism and misanthropy. We too feel a varying degree of these traits but do not see them as an excuse to submit to them, bury our heads and purely look out for ourselves. The change, if we want it, has to come from all of us - collectively. The world is increasingly whispered to by their own echo chambers of conspiracy hypotheses, which itself is becoming a sardonic demonstration of our capability for collective action. Maybe the most satisfying outcome would be if our output helped to instigate an epiphany for anyone who has become lost down their respective rabbit holes.
The nature of power remains the same, the worst instincts of humanity are easier to manipulate at a greater scale than ever. Let’s remember our shared humanity, our connection to the entirety of life and not ceaselessly feed into narratives constructed to endlessly divide us to the benefit of some of the most sinister elements of power.
Dark Triad: Bitter Psalms To A Sordid Species arrives on May 21st via Church Road Records. Stream the lead single The Truth Of The Beast below and order a copy HERE.