Like many folk, or at least many Americans, I discovered the band AEON within the contents of CANNIBAL CORPSE’s “Centuries Of Torment” DVD. Alex Webster, the everyman Death Metal virtuoso on bass, loves them, and seemingly adorns their t-shirt in every shot. Mr. Webster’s suggestion did not simply introduce me to an incredible new group, but it ushered me into a wave of searing technical capabilities that are just as primal as they are mind-numbingly precise.
I began with “Rise To Dominate,” and then backpedaled to “Bleeding The False” and “Dark Order.” Many a Metal fan passionately attests that the band has in fact released poorer efforts over time. That “Dark Order” is the ogre at the apex, while “Bleeding The False” is a few granite steps below, and “Rise To Dominate” is, well, nearly Christian.
While AEON’s first two albums sound barbaric and practically unleashed upon the listener, “Rise To Dominate” is the over-produced cousin - a step in the light, so to speak. While I respect fandom opinion, I also wholeheartedly disagree. “Rise To Dominate” was a monster.
Perhaps the most insanely heavy album in 2007, the album’s opener, “Helel Ben-Shachar,” opens like a bomb, and its closer, “No One Escapes Us,” is an evil hymn of chants that purports that domination is in the cards – tarot or otherwise. Catchy, unrelenting, and wicked, to press play is to respond with a furrowed brow and snarled teeth. The grooves bend and twist and the drums blast and build into a domino-effect of tumbling, exploding pylons. It was an evolutionary march in the right direction for AEON. The musicianship, the vocals, the execution – all of it had been amplified with hellfire.
So when “Path Of Fire” blipped on the radar, the blood of AEON fans around the globe began to boil. Could they possibly outgun “Rise To Dominate”? Could things get any better – err - I mean, darker?
Picking any of the aforementioned AEON recordings as a “best” album is truly a futile effort. “Dark Order” is a basically juiced-up DEFACED CREATION, and “Bleeding The False” is a gigantic riff-smorgasbord. Seeing as how the first half of this review is an ode to “Rise To Dominate,” no explanation is in order.
Upon first listen, “Path Of Fire” lacks the bait and hooks that its predecessor contained, but everything else is intact and fiercely accentuated. Admirers of “Dark Order” and “Bleeding The False” AEON should relish the band’s focus on traditional brutality, while new fans like myself, who believe “Rise To Dominate” reigns supreme, can bask in the certainty that AEON have created an album that is as malevolent and as intimidating as anything they’ve ever done.
As always, the guitar work is a driving tour-de-force. Never too linear and never too ornate, Daniel Dlimi and Zeb Nilsson’s prowess is absorbed in waves of ceaseless energy. Whether it’s a finger-slitting riff or a nosebleed-inducing solo, the pair shred effortlessly from start to finish in an exasperating spiral of distortion. "Path of Fire" is AEON's fastest album. The duo also shared bass playing efforts for the recording before Marcus Edvardsson of SOUL DRAINER, CHASTISEMENT, and SANCTIFICATION fame was recruited. Like “Rise To Dominate,” Edvardsson also recorded and did the album’s engineering at Fröson, Sweden’s Empire Studios, a company he shares with Joakim “Sylen” Staaf Sylsjö.
While not as technically mad as NECROPHAGIST or BRAINDRILL or SPAWN OF POSSESSION, AEON still delivers with reckless abandon and builds the intensity with a myriad of clever structures. Akin to every other AEON album, the drumming by Nils Fjellström is simply overwhelming. In a style of music that births maniacal drummers by the barrel-full, Fjellström is one of the few that simply has it down pat. The timing, the progression, the creativity, the double fucking bass – every bit of it is Death Metal All-Star material.
A key feature of AEON that tends to divide more than unite is the vocalist duty of Tommy Dahlström. A constantly growling and barking lead, Dahlström blends guttural booms and screeching highs with ease, and for my money, is one of the best in the business at doing so. For many, the lyrics, and their lack of innovation, appear to be the problem. Yes, AEON songs are Satanic. Yes, they can be perverse. And yes, oh yes, even in such a context, can they be silly. I won’t go into the details, because truthfully, Dahlström’s lyrics are not why I listen to AEON in the first place. I listen for the unrelenting sonic assault that AEON guarantees, and I listen for the way Dahlström fuses his voice into the fray. It’s an awesome combination, and hell, even if AEON lyrics tend to be of the one-sided sort, it doesn’t mean they can’t be memorable.
Listen to “I Will Burn” and understand.
Complete with the occasional demonic sampling, a wide assortment of chugging, head-banging riffs, a Middle-Eastern instrumental entitled “Total Kristus Inversus,” an outro that screams Tim Burton’s “Batman,” and a commendable mixing job by Erik Rutan of MORBID ANGEL and HATE ETERNAL at his always dependable Mana Recording Studio, “Path Of Fire” is just another lumbering step towards Death Metal royalty for these brutally talented Swedes.
It should be noted that Dlimi created the suitably evil cover artwork and layout for the third consecutive AEON album.
(Online July 27, 2010)