Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bloodway - Sunstone Voyager and the Clandestine Horizon (EP) [2014]

Over the last few years, I, Voidhanger Records has been the cultivator of a splendid array of underground releases; for a label so unknown to the majority of the metal communion, the gamut of their signings is incredibly extensive, ranging from proggy psychedelia, to doom, to atmospheric black metal and old school death metal - they've literally built up a pantheon of underground extremities which have both the sparsity and quality that would unquestionably attract more than just a few etherized listeners. And the great thing is that the wave does not stop in 2014 - far from it. What the ravenous underground metal enthusiast comes across in 2014 is yet another eclectic, dark oddity. Romania's Bloodway is, as it is to nearly every other listener, a fresh face as well as an unexpected propulsion of sorrow, grief, anger and spiritual dilemmas stretched out to an abstract and progressively enhanced degree. For the 26 minutes of lifespan it may have, ''Sunstone Voyager and the Clandestine Horizon'' is no easy pill to swallow, and packed with more material than other bands do in entire plus-1-hour offerings.

The rather graphic, surreal imagery on the cover should already provide some information on the density and richness of the dimensions explored on the EP. Putting Bloodway in one category is difficult; the group's sound pervades doom, sludge, black, death and progressive metal in eccentric proportions, but even that would not be able to do their unique sound proper justice. To put simply Bloodway possesses a characteristic rawness that sometimes morphs into tempered black metal chords, and sometimes to melody fests like on ''Free Ends'', and the EP never ceases to be suffused in the heart-wrenching agony that the vocalist, a kind of disillusioned madman strapped on a microphone, seems to suffer and lament. But unlike many raw or ''suicidal'' black metal acts that shower the listener with similar tides of catharsis, Bloodway's guitar work is collectively geared up and functions with fastidious efficiency: they've got a riff for nearly every moment, and each is no less technical than your average progressive black metal record. Point is, riff brewing is their job, and they can sure as hell do it. The guitars hold a subtle balance between dented and crisp, which is perhaps their secret delivery formula. I loved how they were seamlessly driving through the somber thickets of atmosphere in post-rock formations without actually barring the vocals or the drums, which, by any measure, were satisfying.

Fuck, even the vocals, reared on the edge of some imminent doom, delivered. Much like a black metal version of John Tardy or Van Drunnen, the vocalist barks and screams with utter pain and loss, a beautiful accompaniment to the cruising guitar assemblies. I did feel the atmospheric achievement of the album was somewhat dwarfed by the technical feats of the instruments, and there was no orchestral undertone to the album which I would definitely have preferred, (except, maybe, for the opiate intro track, which was something of an electronic track) but I suppose my gripes about the EP are confined only to that extent. The raw and visceral treatment of the EP is one that's more shocking than disappointing: I imagine certain listeners were waiting for a less refined, less abrupt piece, something more aural, but the moment the stupendous ''The Skeleton Key'' kicks in with its bustling rhythms and dark chord ballasts, the listener has no more false images about the EP's direction. The fact is, I am still in conflict with myself on how what I think about this album. I certainly enjoyed it, enough for it to compel a good many listens, but I'm still a bit lost in the hazy conglomeration of its riffs... Never mind me. If you want to enjoy some grieving, technically-oriented paranoia - stuff that has its place alongside many well-relished underground monarchs - you want to give this a go. If all else goes wrong, you have a man mummified with stars with a crescent moon for a crotch and a sun for a brain to contemplate.

The Skeleton Key
Free Ends
Sunstone Voyager and the Clandestine Horizon

Rating: 85%

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Solstice - Death's Crown Is Victory [2013]

Needless to say I'm not the biggest doom fan out there. As a genre with the potential to exfoliate any sort of eloquence or panache with the simplest of banalities, I often found doom too ''slow'' to be such a wildly invigorating trip as any other genre, and that's, I think, one of the more commonplace scoldings it gets from listeners. Again, while that doesn't mean I neglect everything doom, I find myself at a loss of interest in most cases. That is the continual Grand Magus albums, the slower bits and pieces of Agalloch, almost any kind of sludge/stoner doom throwback, and even some of the classics. Of course the genre has witnessed quite a few climaxes lately, (or so it's been said) following an unimaginable upsurge in its popularity, most of which I haven't been able to visit. When we come to Solstice, I realize that my previous criticisms should equal an acidic assault on the band's redundancy, but strangely enough, that is not the case. These UK veterans are tough, seasoned, well-established, and even though I have no history with them, I was rather taken by their newest EP, ''Death's Crown Is Victory''.

What does Solstice hold for a seeker of eccentricities such as I? For one, it's consistent. In basic terms, the EP is just two booming 9 minute songs, with two lesser instrumentals clustered around them. What's essentially a concoction of Sabbath, Witchfinder General, Pentagram and newer Swedish trends is played with great, tight musicianship, and doesn't falter for one second. Solstice is defined as epic doom metal, which, though more fitting for other practitioners of the style, seems like a worthy tag. The half-dolorous, half-vainglorious vocals stretch and burden the album with clarity and the overall atmosphere is generally warm except for rare saunters into darker territory. And that's not just it. Who could not drool over the simplistic chug-complex of the huge, sun-wreathed guitar chords and progressions that etch across the album? Sometimes the Brits puncture a few technicalities into the mix, with melodies and even occasional arpeggio sequences, like on the title track, but the guitars generally retain a set of riffs more fitting for the baritone of the vocals; and the drums are always there, cymbal and snare, battering against the currents of mourn and triumph. While Solstice doesn't dabble with any of the 60's/70's psychedelic rock phenomena that new bands keep interpreting into their sound these days, they keep the more eclectic strata of listeners awake with melodious twists and turns here and there, so you know the album isn't all doom n' gloom.

And doesn't ''Death's Crown Is Victory'' feel redundant at times? You bet. There are more than just a few sequences where the riffs were rather dulling, where the vocals weren't saturated with enough epic tenor to shake me and cause goosebumps to pop up on my arm, and the overall sound is nothing if not original - but so what? It could have used a few tweaks in the production as well, because the guitars were to brassy at times that they were choking the vocals, but, again, there's no huge loss here. It just feels like a cogent, ass-kicking album. The big story was that they weren't travelling at a snail's face, like their funeral doom peers, and they certainly weren't fucking around with pointless poignant interludes here and there; I simply thought the pacing was damn close to optimum in terms of doom. And while the block-like patterns didn't stir anything close to maternal grief or irreparable woe, it is a moving experience. A nice potent formula to brew every now and then when you're taking a long walk across the English pastoral.

I Am The Hunter
Death's Crown is Victory

Rating: 78%

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cultfinder - Hell's Teeth [2014] (EP)

Oh boy.

I think, the most inescapable truth about retrogression is that no matter how much we move forward, through the epochs and the endless cycles of both musical phenomena and bashful, ignorant tinkering, there will always be a certain circle that will not give even the slightest of fucks to break free of the dull chamber and begin the process of contemporary acclimatization. This is not just in music, folks; art in general will always have its antiquarian minorities, these little groups of revolting, sulky old-schoolers who will absolutely refuse to start pacing in the modern way. It's no big surprise. And to think, there are many bands who excel in the school of the olde, despite current standards. Unfortunately, there's an even bigger stockpile of bands who fail to do so. Cultfinder being one of many. While dubbing them as ''old school'' might not be the smartest of criticisms, and certainly no way to exercise chastisement, one can't help but feel that their sound is worn down by age. For a band riffing the practices of Venom, Destroyer 666 and early 80's punk mania, it must surely be hard to create any sort of particularly appealing texture, but that great strain to prolong bygone efforts does not enhance the quality of their music...

For those of you who still haven't gotten anything beyond the puerile art comparison, I'll make this plain: Cultfinder is a black/thrash trio, hailing from the UK, and their newest EP ''Hell's Teeth'', a teetering, vitriolic assault of demented aggression, is no shocker of an experience. Even their previous EP ''Black Thrashing Terror'' was a fresher ballast compared to its meager successor, and I find it almost sad that the trio couldn't produce anything worthy of note in 2 years' time. While mortally menacing, Cultfinder can scantly portray any form of ''terror'' here. The sense of fulfillment is utterly constrained to the percussive but terribly recorded drums, a handful of punk-induced thrash riffs, and the atypically hoarse rasps of the vocalists. The patterns are simple, as you might imagine, but I was grateful that they were executed with celerity and effectiveness. Perhaps, only perhaps, the only tad of surprise I had was how the band at times tried to manage black metal as a purer form rather than constantly mixing it up with the junkier aesthetics of thrash and punk. That however, proves to be waste of time and recording space when the band's attitude is so incompatible with the spiritual requirements of ''pure'' black metal. That's not to say black metal doesn't run on raw fuel, but it simply can't operate with such a parochial approach, even in its most primal form.

After all, there might have been less than a handful of riffs that held my attention ephemerally, and in the end I'm not going to hate this because it sticks to what it is and has no delusions about it, (well, for the most part) but even if it possessed twice - no, thrice - the fervor it has, let's be honest - how many black/thrash bands out there have hit it big? Forget commercial success, I'm talking about actual quality, durability and beauty. There are so few records that are really impeccable in this realm (''Unchain the Wolves'' instantly comes to mind) that Cultfinder had little chance from the start. I know it's rather demeaning, but that's the cold hard truth. This EP is just a raw stack of tremolos, chords, primal energy and wretchedness, no more, no less. As always, purists will be immensely fond of it, at least enough to give it 2 or 3 spins, and the mainstream metal community will immediately neglect it, I imagine. If you're acquainted with black/thrash or the aforementioned bands in any way, than you already know to expect. Don't forget crucify someone whilst listening.

All Conquering Death
Morbid Breed

Rating: 58%

Friday, March 21, 2014

Skelethal - Deathmanicvs Revelation [2014] (EP)

As a duo who had previously contributed to the retro-thrash French obscure Infinite Translation, naturally I wasn't too enthralled to see Jon Whiplash and Gui Haunting performing in their revivalist schemes in the field of death metal with Skelethal. Now let's be clear here, folks. There's really very little to get excited about the ''Deathmanicvs Revelation'' EP that these two Frenchmen put out unless you're constantly in the mood to try out recycled riffs after recycled riffs from the 90's, pertaining to Entombed and Dismember in the highest degree possible. It's annoying enough the sound on many Swedeath revitalization attempts are so compressed and paper-thin in actual originality, but the matter doubles in banality when entire throngs of bands can't seem to free themselves of the verbosity of this situation. Not that Skelethal's capability lies solely in dialing back to '89-'93 - the Frenchmen have got more juice than a good few of their fellow aping machines - but even if the 22 minutes they presented was vigorous enough, I could never stop thinking how confined these younglings were to their style.

What I'm talking about here is, of course, loud bantering guitars with the atypical Swedish death metal toning, raw, fermenting and persistently dismissive of an eclectic listener's attempt to carve out more refined sounds; and one cannot forget the vocals either, which were, I'm afraid, by no stretch of the imagination particularly evocative in its pestering attempt to provoke horror and living fear. I suppose Skelethal channels back to the demo-stages of Grave, Entombed, Unleashed and Dismember (Nihilist, if you will), because they crave a thinner and more metallic abstraction of the guitars some of their counterparts, and I some of thrashy directions which the duo exhibited with their side project Infinite Translation certainly rubbed off on their death metal chord-playing, as the title track abundantly displayed. However, despite all my carping with the lack of innovation most of the guitar riffs and drum patterns, it goes without saying I felt a mild craving for the furious tempo and pacy edginess the Frenchmen created, and I even felt they were flirting with Napalm Death or Terrorizer on the unbridled ''Curse of the Neverending''.

Yet, for the sheer bliss of razing, chainsaw-ripping death metal out here, Skelethal doesn't have much to offer besides a few cans of grossly brewed beer. The sense of the necessity to break through and ponder a more intricately layered, worthwhile sounds shines through ''Death Returns''; it's pretty obvious that even these guys aren't really having an extremely fun time playing the stuff that's been blistering ears and headphones alike for over 20 years - but their failure at circumvention is inevitable. Thankfully, the atmospheric aspects of the EP weren't imposed with the mephetic dullness of a lot of bands in the same market, because the production was rather crisp, raw, and gave in for plenty of breathing space in the end. ''A Violation of Something Sacred'' was probably the band's dabble with death n' roll, and not a bad one, at that, but I felt the product was all the same. There might have been a moment or two here that the guitar actually stood out with sufficient memorability, but that's it... I won't demean the Frenchmen at such a preliminary effort - there have, after all, been copious bands before who took years to properly refine themselves - but let's just hope that the pastiche and creativity of the riffing is enlarged with future recordings. Till then, drink beer and hail death.

Deathmanicvs Revelation

Rating: 68%

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Obliteration - Black Death Horizon [2013]

Such an excessive portion of today's insurgent death metal spectrum seems to be frugal in the manner of originality, and hotheadedly persistent in sticking to much to the rules passed out by their monstrous descendants during the late 80's and early 90's that it's almost a chore to weed through the metric ton of releases and find something actually worthwhile. All told, as member of this beleaguered metal scene. And yet, does this mean that there have been absolutely no death metal masterpieces during the last decade or so? One would think so, after so much disregard of the aesthetic preferences of current acts have been held in consideration, but the subsequent appendages of bands like Necrovation, Repugnant, Horrendous, Morbus Chron and similar harbingers of death have been such malign and entertaining pastiches of old school fervor and tenacity that the banalities of the majority can easily be neglected. After all, while the genre is still being gradually carried forward by a group visionary bands, there is another, far more putrescent grouping in the underground that thrives on the love for the old school, and just the old school, being simultaneously awesome whilst doing so.

Hence, even with their squamous sophomore ''Nekropsalms'', Norway's Obliteration was not the most proficient contender to this particular end of death metal, though I have to say I did quite enjoy the buttery, gruesome death/doom palette that it so willfully flirted with. Some four years later, the Norse return with their most convincing anomaly yet; a putrid mass of slithering, unbridled murk straight from the pits of the nether: ''Black Death Horizon''. As a record whose name actually exemplifies the characteristic blend of early Autopsy, raw punk, Morbid Angel and early Death in it, ''Black Death Horizon'' is an excellent fucking trip down the quivering, cadaverous gateways of death metal, like some nostalgia trip with a little bit of everything. Let's just get something straight: this album is hands down one of the most morbidly attractive records in death metal I've heard in a good fucking while, and not solely in its pernicious mix of influences, but as an addictive piece of sensational ghastliness... 

Everything in this record from its writhing, whammy-impregnated leads flying about to the searing range of unabashed tremolos to its Autopsy-esque death/doom gruesomeness is stark and evil, even majestic at certain points. My initial fondness for the record grew with a passion for the necromantic vocals. Imagine a random punk frontman singing over the wretched, pestilent inflection of Chuck Schuldiner or Martin Van Drunnen; and I even caught a tad of Robert Andersson of Morbus Chron in there. Of course, the ominous presence of the guitars make themselves abundantly clear to the awestruck listener's trembling ear. The guitars may be meaty and murky, the bass belching like the baritone of an incarcerated demon; but despite the seamless d-beat drumming and vile vocal ranging, the Norse sustain a gorgeously demoniac clarity in the production, so the listener is never really thrown into a pointless, meandering wall of sound. Indeed, the attributions of some of the riffs aren't as sharp hooks as some others like the serpentine tremolos leading ''Goat Skull Crown'', especially when the band vies for more straightforward black/death foray in the vein of Darkthrone (as on ''Transient Passage'') but with so much bloody material compressed into a delicious pulp, the listener is only seldom reminded of such deficiencies. The melodies as on ''The Distant Sun'' or ''Ascendance'' are superb, twisted whirlpools of bile and vitriol, with an obstinate sense of adherence to much of the projections that were present on the band's sophomore, and yet the band still keeps things interesting by constantly shifting between tempos and riffs. There is always a steady, building level of tension that feels as though it'll blow the pulp up to crimson pieces of volcanic shrapnel that simply doesn't dissipate until the last moment, even on the gloomy, liquescent ''Churning Magma''...

Thus, with all its aspects, ''Black Death Horizon'' lives up to its name with utmost potential and torturous adroitness, like the product of some blissful witchery by the misty peak of the sulfuric promontory of the excellent, excellent cover. By the time this record had run its course, I found myself bathed in blood and all the other gnarly ingredients these primordial sorcerers bestirred. Sure, ''Black Death Horizon'' does have its dull moments from time to time, as I felt some of the longer tracks like ''Transient Passage'' - though still crammed to the tits of with feculent goodness - and the title track dragged about a little too long than I might have preferred, and there too were certain sequences where I thought they were recycling some of the previous guitar work with scarcely a change in drum patterns, but the overall output of the record, as displayed with such tunes as ''Sepulchral Rites'' and ''Goat Skull Crown'' makes for some of the most disgustingly appealing death metal products of 2013. So rarely do retro death metal bands actually feel motivated about their cause of purveying evil and asphyxiating entire throngs with pyroclastic mounds of dirt that this album felt like one of the most thoroughly enjoyable discs of the year. You're not feeling it until you're caked with muck. 

Goat Skull Crown
Sepulchral Rites
Transient Passage

Rating: 88%

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Heresiarch - Waelwulf (EP) [2014]

Despite having a career spanning no longer than a truncated twig, New Zealand's Heresiarch garnered more attention than other outfits with countless full-lengths up their belt with the single, meteoric arrival of their 2011 EP ''Hammer of Intransigence'', which was greeted with a rather mixed bevy of reviews. In all honesty, despite my appreciation for the the darker arts that death metal bands can manage to conjure, the EP was hardly a novelty, and I couldn't really help feel that it was being somewhat trod down by the real, indomitable masters of the genre. And to think, these guys weren't the best or the first to hail from New Zealand. The country continues to host a terrific circle of bestial black metal bands ranging from Witchrist and Diocletian, which have done quite a lot to promulgate the genre at large. When Heresiarch's dubious second EP arrived at my mail, I was half unwilling and half expecting the same dismay that diminished their premier EP, and I'm not about to vaunt this thing after I've listened to it, either.

''Waelwulf''' is almost entirely an unfaltering procession of the band's previous effort, with only three tracks jammed in for 13 minutes. If you're not familiar with them, I'll just say that it doesn't really need too much concentration to get to the center of the music. You'll hear the usual culprits Blasphemy, Archgoat, Beherit, and the aforementioned Diocletian, and these tracks are so similar to some of Diocletian's output that you could easily attach them to the end of any one of their albums. Fortunately, the banality of the beastly, warlike chaos that proceeds Heresiarch is mitigated by a somewhat unusual proclivity to sludge things up occasionally. That's not to say that these guys are direct progenitors of early 90's death/doom gods, but a current of slower, titular expansionism is prevalent in their music in certain focal points, denoting of an appreciation of Winter, disEMBOWELMENT, Autopsy or Cianide. Unfortunately, even with bantering, unorthodox drums fills and the doomy sequences forging abrupt tempo changes, there isn't much in the sense of intrigue in ''Waelwulf'''.

The guitar tone is nice, meaty and chubby, more real than that of ''Hammer...'', but for all the good it does to the rest of the album. The best thing this EP is likely to give you is a terrific, turbulent headache. I'm a sucker for the chaotic, miasma-ridden storms they can spew forth, but that's just fucking it. ''Waelwulf'' is well-nigh an empty crater in the middle of some archaic cave, with cracks and crevices along its each and every corner. It's layers are unfocused, dull and usually just meandering currents of distorted commotion that supposedly sew a web of ''chaos''. Heresiarch is chaotic alright, I'll give them that, but so many have gone the road of chaos and disorder that it's no longer interesting; and they're not bringing anything new on the table besides horrific and vilifying guitar sequences with a damp, worthless atmosphere. Even the minute aural images that they try to summon through the wailing guitars like the ending of ''Abrecan'' are pointless and stuffy. If you're trying to love Heresiarch, but you can't, than stop trying. The bestial/war metal market is so crowded with enshrouded jewels that you'll find more than a dozen gems by the time this EP is over. Try something else. Try Vassafor, try Diocletian, try Bölzer, try Teitanblood. I'm sure a handful of die-hards will be spinning this as they proceed to execute their weekly rituals in the local altar, but beyond that, there's nothing it can offer; so I'll be just sitting here, pondering how these guys hope to manage the enormity of a full-length if they can't even pull off a 13-minute EP.


Rating: 57,5%

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ulcerate - Vermis [2013]

Ever since the advent of their colossal third full-length ''Destroyers of All'', New Zealand's Ulcerate has been hailed as one of the leading augurs of the new technical death metal/post-hardcore or whatever you wanna call it movement, and I'm not sure if it was the overpraising, the excess commotion or just simply an adamant unwillingness, but I haven't listened to the lauded album to this day. ''Destroyers of All'' popped up in nearly every review blog or end-of-the-year list in 2011, channeling its imperious notoriety to the following year, and even though it was similar to the brilliant Flourish debut, or Deathspell Omega's engaging, estranged ''Paracletus'', I still didn't feel like giving it a listen. God knows why. Now, the group, hot on the heels of their cult classic, has come with yet another obelisk of ungodly, seismic tech-death, which is, to be sure, going to leave the ravenous masses drooling and ulcerated (you'll have to excuse the pun).

Maybe not so. Even though I'm fairly certain ''Vermis'' succeeded in encapsulating a certain circle of die-hard followers with wonder, I don't think it achieved half the fame of its beloved predecessor. Who knows, maybe two years changed our ever-mercurial metal society so much that the prodding, desirous sense to obtain and praise the cataclysmic, prehensile formations of that the group so seamlessly conveys didn't attract them any longer. That aside, I'll confide that I do have some serious catching up to do when it comes to post-hardcore or even the more metallic facet of this album by which so many other bands are delightfully toying with, but for all the sheer size, the megalithic density and the dark, inescapable atmosphere ''Vermis'' creates, I didn't find it quite riveting. There is a basic philosophy to this record that one could grasp from the very beginning, when ''Odium'' unfurls with tedious abandon and discomforting, disjointed riffs that I believe these technical/avantgarde metal purveyors are so well known for, stuff that I was inevitably drawn to in ''Paracletus'', but the riffs here come out in such banal, unimpressive orgies that I found myself drifting away from the album's core more and more as it tread forward, even though I was supposed to be elicited...

The busy, chaotic, brickwalled structure is something I can certainly appreciate, but apply it too often and too egregiously and it just becomes a chore to listen to. The guitars are wailing, wreathing serpents that coil like shapely buildings collapsing in a bombastic manner, the drums fairly clear and punchy, but to be honest in all the metallic tenacity of the album I only found a few moments that I enjoyed. As the notes continue to swell with the same frustrated patterns of repetition and sinewy monstrosity it feels as though the New Zealanders were deliberately poking my wounds, turning them sorer and bloodier every passing minute. I'll give it to them that the compositions are both stiff and strangely challenging, intricate as it must have taken them a great deal of time to pen them, yet, unfortunately, the intricacy of a composition, as myriad other examples have shown, does not necessarily bode well for its quality.  The fact that there were some really majestic, sweltering moments sporadically allocated across the album made me intermittently get my hopes high for the record, and the ultimate product wasn't really bad, but it wasn't all that good either. Hell, riffs like the pre-chorus passage on ''Await Rescission'' or the verse patterns on the title track were seriously titillating, even stellar builds, uproarious explosions of deluded chaos which the band unquestionably excels at. If only they had some more of those...

To add, the vocals were alright; I wasn't particularly impressed but I wasn't irritated either, in contrast to the wild fluctuations of the guitars. Like I said, ''Vermis'' is definitely not a bad album, but it feels like it's a bit stale in a world already crammed to the tits with similar material being ejaculated from countless different sources. It is, in the broadest sense, a death metal version of ''Paracletus'', - a monumental design of this particular sub-genre -  but it doesn't retain the masterwork's ability to encompass emotion and dread in so many different layers as acutely. It is, however, a highly florid if rigid output that, as said, fans will eagerly gulp up - at least if ''Vermis'' doesn't devour them first.

The Imperious Weak
Await Rescission 

Rating: 65%

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%