Written by: The Administrator
As a pseudo-mediaeval scribe raised off the grid, I wasn't exactly allowed video games at home as a child. However, if I saw Epilogue's artwork gracing a PlayStation disc at a friend's house, I would have, without a doubt, been suitably enraptured. Look at those colors! The implied sense of movement and perhaps, if you use your imagination, even a little chaotic violence! The allure is strong.
Judging the book by its cover aside, I am familiar with 18 Slashes' game. 2023's excellent Jawnnobyl was a dark synthwave masterclass as far as I'm concerned, and ended up taking the crown as my favorite electronic album of the year. Created as the soundtrack for a game that does not exist, and admittedly operating at a much higher bitrate, every 18 Slashes release is nevertheless imbued with an endearing nostalgia. Stefan Schneider has found a delicate balance between explosively frenetic fun and a specific yearning for the irreplicable childlike glee associated with experiencing a new game for the very first time.
Anyways, this was originally going to be published as a mini-review, but I have far too much to say. Let's blow away the word count parameters and just go for it, shall we?
When compared to Jawnnobyl, this direct follow-up is generally less harsh, urgent, chaotic, and dark. There are fewer tracks here delivering the adrenal overload I can only associate with the final few seconds of a particularly stubborn bossfight. The cardio is certainly still there, the heartrate is up, but as a trend, Epilogue implements soundscapes that are comparatively more elegant. Given the journey-to-the-underworld theme as presented in the synopsis, this less outwardly bombastic approach stands to reason. 18 Slashes effortlessly threads the gap between high-octane energy and an odd ethereal calm--less the relaxation that comes from meditation, and more the brisk serenity located at the end of a vigorous workout.
Pulsating lushness. Frantic breakbeats. Vibrant and dreamy synths. Everything coexists in a fashion that feels notably natural. Take "A Room With a Ghoul" as a prime example--welcoming atmospherics and gaze-y synths exist alongside throbbing and sharp percussion, providing a tangible sense of both space and activity. There's an energizing movement, but yet nothing here feels overtly aggressive or angular. It is a fantastic track.
While there is an inherent familiarity at play from track to track given the limited palette, the songs all feel quite unique. Opener "Unmarked Graves" is bright and curious--the percussion lends a nice forward momentum but isn't rushed or frantic. Much like the first level of a well-designed video game, it creates an implicit sense of exploration, which heightens in intensity via crisp snares across "Only Living Boy in This Jawn." "It's Go Time" introduces a hollower and more ominous sound, while standout track "Link Arena" feels notably full and lush and layered. Here, the drums are assertive and booming, while the synths are less bombastic, more peaceful and introspective. In contrast, "Stone Throw Skippa" and "Here Lied Jawn" amp up the bouncy athleticism, both building to a fairly heart-pounding pace. "The End Of The Beginning is the End of the Beginnings" slows things down and smooths out the more angular edges, providing an appropriate sense of contemplative closure.
This is a wondrously immersive listen, and, like unto our favorite games, has strong replay value. The intended narrative is loose--all the listener has to go off is the brief description on Bandcamp of protagonist John Noble's journey into and out of the underworld. As such, the opportunity for self-invented storylines and imagery is quite high, which is an indulgent and rewarding process in and of itself. Try it yourself: throw on Epilogue and tell me where we are and what we are doing. Effortlessly parkouring across neon-lit cyberpunk rooftops after spelunking through an ancient lich king's sewer domain? Sure, we can do that. Taking inventory after a down-to-your-last-life bossfight while hurtling high above the skyline in a organic bullet train? Why not! Watching the sunset whilst floating in an escape pod through the upper atmosphere of a slumbering gas giant? From a listener perspective, the only limitation is your imagination.
I highly recommend this album for any fans of drum and bass, dreamy synth, and/or electronic music in general, but moreover, I recommend listening to Epilogue directly after Jawnnobyl for a narratively cohesive experience. Sonically, the two albums represent different sides of the 18 Slashes coin, and the story presented in one ultimately feels unfinished without the presence of the other. That's a sign of a damn good Act I and II, as far as I'm concerned. Plus, whomst among us wouldn't want to maximize time listening to kickass music?
I've rambled enough. If any of this seems appealing, check out Epilogue. Find it here.
18 Slashes - Epilogue was released Jan. 5th, 2023 via Syrup Moose Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.