Rock history, like all kinds of history, tends to be divided after the fact into winners and losers. Among most rock critics evaluating progressive rock bands, King Crimson has been tagged as winners and the Moody Blues as losers. The fact is, though, that in their early days, King Crimson could sometimes sound rather close to what the Moody Blues were doing in the late '60s. Nowhere was that resemblance stronger than in "Epitaph," the portentous nine-minute cut that closed side one of In the Court of the Crimson King: An Observation by King Crimson. This is not to say that this sounds like a Moody Blues copy, or that being like the Moody Blues is always a bad thing; it's just an observation. The song begins with a dramatic drum roll and pseudo-orchestral sweep of somber melody. This gives way to a rather folky verse -- many prog rockers used folk-rockish structures as the backbone of some of their material -- in which the singer records rather gloomy images of nightmares, death, and decay, accented by doom truck drum thumps. The singing becomes more passionate on the following verses, leaping a whole octave upward, as the vague poetic words continue to evoke dark places where nothing is known and threat is looming. This leads up to a more dramatic chorus in which the words are punctuated by more spacious pauses and brief dabs of notes before concluding on a more thunderous, apocalyptic note, expressing the singer's fear that things aren't going to turn out all that well. Cheerful stuff indeed, but the tune is pretty attractive. The arrangement is good too, with Robert Fripp's guitar undulating like a weeping willow and Ian McDonald's Mellotron adding a layer of fear. An extended instrumental break finds the reeds and woodwinds playing off particularly gloomy guitar chords, the stop-and-start beats and frequent beats mirroring the oncoming crawl of a grim reaper. The extended fadeout on the last part of the chorus pushes the Mellotron up front to seal the spooky, desolate atmosphere.