Friday, February 14, 2014

Sulphur Aeon - Swallowed By the Ocean's Tide [2013]

Haunted by illusions of cadaverous, bloodied hymns, it's easy to go astray these days and find yourself playing in an old school death metal band. No, too easy. An unforeseen blanket squashing the vastest expanses of the metal universe, the retro-death metal plague proves to be deadlier than its thrash counterpart, as if somehow the indescribable Masque of the Red Death had slyly sneaked its way to our modern epoch to spread its precariously inflicted infection... But not all are affected. Some appear to be immune, even. Don't think I'm merely going to demean the resurgence of the genre as a whole here; we've definitely had our fair share of fresh death metal booty that doesn't strictly belong in the same realm as something like Decapitation or Anal Nakrath: stuff that prefers to dwell under the caves and monolithic recesses of the ages, unaffected by the novelties that the 21st century brings, and carelessly swaggering lo-fi rhythms at packs of avaricious listeners with ears agape.

Alright, I'll just be honest that Germany's Sulphur Aeon is not of the same school as Antediluvian, Impetuous Ritual, or even Tribulation for that matter, but rather in a conflicting territory torn between two rather neglected sides of death metal. These guys are a new, fresh-faced trio whose names go as T., M. and D., and they bring an almost unprecedented churn to death metal. Covering the ambitious steps of Dissection and Sacramentum from the mid 90's along with a more spacious pastiche to explore, their alignments are both of melodic and visceral descent; a hoovering whirl of underwater melodies intertwining with rich, luxuriantly massed guitar tones, prompted by a boiling spur of black metal. The real selling point for me was the ability of the trio to capture both a doubly brutal tone in the guitar as well as epic, harmonious tremolo barrages with great care to enlarge their potential as they tread along. Essentially ''old school'', ''Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide'' is huge, wreathing bulge of terrific guitar work and Lovecraftian horror at its finest.

As mentioned the guitar tone is too good not mention, but I have to say that I the frenetic drumming patterns almost equally. The drums sustain a crisp but still slightly subtle tone, as to not bash the subterranean toil of the record into rubble. The vocals are brilliant accompaniment to the muscular, effervescent floods of the dual guitars, with a great, wretched inflection that retains some balance between a rigorous black metal bark and a much deeper growl that perfectly perceives an image of the fantastic cerulean underwater corpse-city as depicted in the cover. There are moments, though only confined to the first 3 or 4 tracks, that I found to be immaculate and overwhelming in utter terror and tenor. Though such engulfing renditions are the band's obvious point of mastery, I still found myself to be able to digest the more mediocre offings that started to appear more and more frequently as the album progressed.

Just taking the unabashed, glorious hymnal charge of ''Incantation'', or the harmonic layering of ''Inexorable Spirit'' for a few spins would certainly leave any listener in utter cerebral torpor. Unfortunately, tracks like ''Beneath.Beyond.Below:Above'' are somewhat subpar in comparison to the ineluctable finesse of the previous tracks; and that's to say that the album falls a deal short from perfection. Still, while I was rumbling under the cavernous roar of the blast beats, the meticulous double-bass drums, and megalithic guitar proportions, I was struggling as though being dragged into the depths of the album's deep blue core by some scaly, amphibious entity, slowly drowning as the floods overwhelmed me more and more. It's definitely not everyday that you come across an album like this, which, even considering its flaws, manages to uproot many of its fellow cavern-dwellers. Actually, it would be underwhelming and discrediting to call these Germans cavern-dwellers; they can think much more openly than their contemporaries, and with a deeper impact, too. There have been only a few dozen times I really heard Cthulhu's great roar through metal, and this is one of them. Horror-geeks and death metal revivalists alike -  rejoice. 

Inexorable Spirits
The Devil's Gorge

Rating: 85%

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