Reviewed: December 2020
Released: 2020, Independent/Self Release
“Even long after your death, people can go back and hear your voice, feel the weight behind your music and dive deep into the ideas that once drove you, tortured and filled you with purpose.”
These are the words of Johnny Arhondis – lead vocalist and guitar player for Australian death metal newcomers Escarion. He is, of course, talking about the legacy he would like to build with the band and their music, starting with their debut release – Pillars Of Faith.
According to Johnny, to really make an impact, the record had to be a concept, something shocking enough to grab the listener’s attention but deep enough for them to get lost in it.
“For years I’ve been infatuated with the notion of death and immortality. Death finds us all, yet only few gain the status of the eternal”
Escarion have taken this concept and focused on the idea of mankind using sin as a cornerstone to its evolution.
“We knew as a band we must endeavour far into the human psyche to see what constitutes as ‘sin’ itself, not as a religious standpoint but in an ethical morality. Following investigations from great minds such as Nietzsche and Aristotle, as well as our philosophies through life, we came to the conclusion that these ‘sins’ are indeed of human nature itself, which is not inherently evil. Of course, everything in excess can have lasting negative impacts, but in moderation; Pride, Envy, Greed, Sloth, Gluttony, Wrath and Lust can be used to further one’s self and even their community in some instances. This album is our spirit; our zeitgeist, our essence from this period of time as we strive to complete a journey that we hope will be ingrained in our legacy through hardwork; spiritual, physical and creative. For us, the Seven truly are the Pillars of the Faith.”
A glance at the album’s tracklist reveals the “seven” to have been shaped into their own appropriately named composition. Each one a chapter of an imposing selection to which the listener is beckoned towards by the opening, atmospheric arpeggio of Inferno.
Of course, as per standard death metal fare, it isn’t long before the comparative calm of the album’s prologue is pushed aside for what we all came here for. Inferno becomes a hard, metallic stomp featuring blasts of scattershot double-bass drums underneath heavy, melodic flourishes. The guitars twist with the rhythms, shifting into the time changes, eventually exploding into an impressively deranged solo that includes liberal use of the whammy bar and some dexterous sweep-picking.
It is breathtaking stuff that leads us into, Envy; the first “sin” to be given its own tune. It’s an energetic push of melo-death built from similar elements to the track before it. Arhondis’s formidable snap and snarl is present to give everything an aggressive centre.
Gluttony and Lust both showcase more of this; the former introducing itself with a complex sweep of hi-gain guitar playing before it plows into the sort of heavy metal chug that can effortlessly hold a crowd in a unifying headbang. The latter increases the tempo, playing with a flurry of melodic passages before a sudden chop into a grinding midsection once again, sees the guitars soaring over the evolving riffs.
It’s clear there are some skilled musicians in the band and Escarion have gone all out to dazzle with some impressive chops. Dexterity isn’t everything though, and while there is plenty of explosive musicianship on display here, I find myself waiting for that one hook, the anchor that will really lock the listener in.
Thankfully, the latter half of the album get’s closer to that mark. Greed is where the album really takes off for me. Accelerating up to thrash tempos and featuring a solo that reminds me of Iron Maiden at their most melodic. There is a sense of dynamics coming to the fore that was less present at first.
I find myself taking interest in the band’s ability to either aurally encapsulate the sin they are performing – Pride being a particularly majestic composition – or subvert it, as is the case with Sloth, which is anything but the measured crawl you might expect with such a song title.
Ultimately, any reservations I had about Escarion’s ability to balance their songwriting craft with their musical ability are swept away by the albums closing track – Home (Is Where The Heart Is). This final song really demonstrates the band’s onward potential. An epic Carcass meets Maiden heavy metal banger that for me, is the albums highlight and the track that ensures I’ll return to Pillars Of The Faith for further listening and keep Escarion on my radar.
Keep it loud.