Naming a band after historical figures takes some pretty big stones, if I’m being frank—especially a figure with as many exploits and feats as Napoleon. By making that comparison, consciously or otherwise, you imply a likeness between your music and the reputation of the individual. Or, maybe you don’t and I’m the only one who looks at it that way—the point remains the same: if you’re going to name your band after the individual who, among several other accomplishments, brought about the Dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and served as one of the most brilliant tacticians of his time, then…well, you better be good. That’s what I’m getting at.
And Napoleon (the band, not Bonaparte) are very good—so good, in fact, that it might not be a stretch to say that the band’s sophomore full-length album is the strongest progressive metalcore album of the year. Sounding something like if Counterparts toured with TTNG’s guitarist and developed a subtle flair for R&B influenced grooves with mathy, catchy leads, Epiphany is the band taking all the energy and intensity they let loose on their debut record and focusing it into something truly beautiful and unrelenting.
Epiphany is dangerously close to a perfect album, instrumentally. Rare is it for bands to so elegantly balance bright, colorful leads with grisly and crushing grooves. From the opening salvos of “Godspeed,” through “Epiphany” and “Living Ghost” and especially on “Ignite” this is true. Guitarist Sam Osborn never stops shining throughout the album, with “Ignite” climaxing with a lead that is, hands down, my favorite thus far of 2018. Don’t let that fool you into thinking Epiphany is just a gassed-up one-hit-wonder, however. The album’s title track is a threnody of bone-busting breakdowns and melodically-infused segments where drummer James Mendoza works hand in hand with Osborn to create the backbone to Napoleon’s self-proclaimed (and oddly accurate) “Melodipassiongroove” moniker. Together, Osborn and Mendoza are a dynamic duo to be both feared and respected, as songs like “Decay to Create” and “Zeitgeist” prove how low they can go, whereas the aforementioned “Ignite,” as well as “Dream Sequence” highlight their ability to pen beauty. All the while, bassist Jacob Brelsford serves as the glue that solidifies Napoleon’s dynamic, making it truly airtight. Where Brelsford is rarely the star of the show, his work on “Ignite” and “Fantasist” demand recognition, adding a low, booming bounce into the band’s candor that gives Epiphany the little punch it needed to get the listener into full gear.
Napoleon’s instrumentation is the prime driver behind what makes the band so damn good, I’ll be perfectly honest. But that doesn’t mean the band’s frontman, Wes Thompson, isn’t incredible at what he does. Thompson screams, yells, sings—pick a style—excellently, giving the listener the “passion” component of Napoleon’s jumbled pseudogenre the band boast of. Songs like “Ignite” showcase this excellently, as does “Zeitgeist” and “Dream Sequence.” Really, every song showcases it, with Thompson’s voice sounding like an odd hybrid of Counterparts’ raw, gritty and emotionally driven shouts and Architects’ ability to throw pitched, sing-songy screaming into just about any setting. What’s more is that Thompson’s lyrics are intelligent and carefully composed to reflect emotion in an introspective setting while still finding a way to relate that to the listener. “Living Ghost” is one such example, as is the album’s title track. Many of the songs oscillate between downtrodden, bitter emotions and perseverance to push through, blending the common themes of depression and desperation with something more energetic and optimistic.
Epiphany is an album I knew I would like. What I didn’t expect was to totally fall in love with it—and seeing Napoleon take all the scattered, helter-skelter elements that made their debut promising but almost too-dense and condense them with excellent songwriting and incredible composition is a dream come true. Epiphany is the band having just that—an Epiphany, keeping the things that worked for them in the past, re-working the things that didn’t and adding in experience and emotions that only come with time and maturation to make a near-perfect record.
For Fans Of: Counterparts, Hellions, Architects, Shields UK
By: Connor Welsh