Sulphur Aeon - Swallowed by the Ocean's Tide - (9/10)
Published on January 11, 2013
In the vast realm of extreme music, no scribe has been as dutifully adored as Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Not Poe. Not King. Not Dunsany or Barker or Smith. Providence’s H.P. Lovecraft has, for any number of reasons, become the most celebrated and influential of all the literary greats, a supernaturally charged muse whose timeless imaginings continue to stoke as many fret-boards as they do keyboards.
Like so many others before them, Germany’s Sulphur Aeon have addressed the call of Cthulhu with an album dredged deep with Lovecraftian spirit. And while Lovecraft worked so well in employing a sense of building and foreboding dread, Sulphur Aeon only briefly use such means, instead throwing their audience into the invasion and wasting precious little time revealing the horrors that bound about. Their debut album, Swallowed by the Ocean’s Tide, is a quintessential Lovecraft album where seas bubble and heavens part and life as we know it reenters the way of The Old Ones.
Draped under sheets of blackened silt, the sound of Sulphur Aeon is like a giant, current-scanning squid, multi-limbed and colossal, grabbing you from all angles. While the album’s abundant riffs are quite brutal and destructive, groove and melody are never forsaken, bringing to mind more melodic death metal acts like Hypocrisy or Dissection, but then going several fathoms lower with an overpowering bass tone, a leveling percussive backdrop, and a faultless production that adds an even greater water-logged mystery. As Nile seem so well-adapted to Egyptian lore, so does Sulphur Aeon ravenously plumb the forgotten realms and hideaways of Mr. Lovecraft.
Succeeding the album’s foreboding opening chants on “Cthulhu Rites,” the atmosphere is quickly set and then frantically escalated with “Incantation,” a track that uses its racing guitar lines to anxious effect, compelling its listener to run and to hide, and then to run some more. “Inexorable Spirits” sounds exactly like that with its mounting snare roll and plodding double-bass patterns before echoing off into wind-swept eternity, “The Devil’s Gorge” has an obscene mixture of grim Swedish death and pummeling madness ala Anaal Nathrakh, and “Those Who Dwell in Stellar Void” emerges as the heaviest and most Morbid Angel-like song on the album.
On a record bloated with impressive numbers, finding a standout is a difficult undertaking, and although such balanced excellence is no small feat, Swallowed by the Ocean’s Tide does ring with the call of synonymy at times. Still, this is a critique easily excused as Sulphur Aeon’s full-length debut is an entity of imposing and devastating company, grandly executed and an abode, both hellish and marvelous, to one fittingly intense tribute. Fans of death metal – brutal, melodic, or otherwise – need investigate.