Epitaph – Claws Review

Do you like Black Sabbath’s riffs? Of course you do. Stupid question. Why the hell would you be here if you didn’t like Sabbath’s riffs? Did you like when Dio was singing for Sabbath? Again, stupid question. Maybe he wasn’t your favorite, but everyone at least enjoyed that period of Sabbath’s career.

Release date: September 22, 2017.
Label: High Roller Records.
OK, so we all agree that Sabbath riffs rule and and adding Dio’s emphatic voice made for a great combo. But what if that Dionic earnestness were not coupled with Dio’s voice so much as Serge Tankian? David Byrne’s? A touch of early Chris Cornell? Maybe even one of the myriad first wave UK goth vocalists?

“What the fuck do you even mean?” you should be asking yourself to me even though I am not there. What I mean is the singer of Epitaph, Emiliano Cioffi, is bizarre. He is doing something familiar, yet sort of hard to pin down. He is not screaming, nor really singing – though he CAN sometimes – and certainly he is not roaring. He is…bouncing his voice around. Archly. Earnestly. Menacingly. Laughably. Headbangingly.

Do I like it? Ask me again in a second. You will get two different answers. I can’t always wrap my head around it. Sometimes I am ashamed of myself for liking it, other times I am dismissively banging my head to it.

The music is competent and lively, but very, very strictly lifted from the early Sabbath playbook. Nicola Murari and Mauro Tollini make for a Butler/Ward-tight rhythm section, holding down relatively varied tempos, and lengthy compositions. The tasteful Lorenzo Loatelli’s guitar tones are utterly Paranoid-esque.

The songs are a little hit or miss, if only because the formula is so tried and true. “Wicked Lady,” though quite a bit longer, is almost literally “Black Sabbath” in feel, sans quicker paced ending. And that is going to be a problem for me going forward. I hear “Wicked Lady” but I think “Black Sabbath.” That is no way to insist upon your own style.

Conversely, “Waco the King” is a driving stompfest that lets the group build their own personality. While there is tons of Sabbathing going on, it is done in a way that contributes to the cannon instead of relying on it. This is the sound of a band transcending its references.

As far as production, less is more. Everything is simply and clearly recorded. This is what the band sounds like, not the producer. Nice.

But back to Cioffi. He is either going to make or break your experience with this record and this band, all else being equal. If you are a longtime reader of my reviews, you know I have a deep and abiding hate of clean vocalists unless they get “it” just so. You are also deranged, but that is between you and your counselor/gimp. Cioffi is dancing back and forth over the line of “it,” and I will admit this dance is compelling in its own right. On the whole I have to admit I enjoyed most of my time with this record.

Again, this is nothing new, innovative or surprising. It is a solid, genuinely fun and headbanging homage. I do recommend it with the above caveats. It does enough right to make it worth a listen – and maybe you too will become fascinated with the daredevil vocals.

Posted by Chris Sessions

I write for Last Rites, but in my mind it is spelled Lassed Writes because I am a dreamer.

  1. Cool riffs, but you’re right, his voice is very odd. Nice review.


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