At the tail end of each year, just at that point when you’re finally confident enough to share your carefully considered Albums of the Year list with other like-minded folks, there always seems to be one band who decide to release something just in time to completely mess up your painstakingly structured running order, forcing you to throw everything up in the air and start all over again. This year, that band is Sulphur Aeon, and you’re very welcome.
The third full length release from the German H.P. Lovecraft devotees, The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos (Ván Records) continues the band’s lurking obsession with foul, eldritch horrors such as The Great Old Ones, The Outer Gods, and The Deep Ones, and is the first album to recognise long-time touring members ‘S’ (aka Sascha Schiemann) on bass (or ‘Abyssopelagial Pulse’) , and ‘A’ (aka Andreas Koort) on guitar (or ‘Yuggothian Chords’) as part of the official line-up.
With five members now contributing to the almost indescribable, crawling chaos, this latest release marks another firm step forward in the band’s evolution. Slow, but monolithically heavy opening track ‘Cult Of Starry Wisdom’ immediately shows the band are unafraid of venturing into new areas and going against what is generally expected, with vocalist ‘M’ (aka Martin Hellion) beginning the song with low, menacing clean tones before producing his more familiar cadaverous roars. After the chanting and the melodic soloing of the first track slowly fades away, the band launch into the churning maelstrom of ‘Yuggothian Spell’. Switching between the punishingly fast and the grindingly slow, ‘M’ explores more of his range, including further clean vocals, anguished shouts and higher pitched roars, all set against a barrage of drums and middle-eastern melodies.
The cyclopean thundering of ‘The Summoning of Nyarlathotep’ and the pitiless savagery of ‘Veneration of the Lunar Orb’ are followed by the squamous lumbering of ‘Sinister Sea Sabbath’, a brooding nine-minute piece which revels in its grasping reptilian malevolence before exploding into a foaming delirium of gibbering cinematic perversion. As the membranous death rattle of ‘The Oneironaut – Haunting Visions Within the Starlit Chambers of Seven Gates’ disappears, it is replaced by the crustaceous savagery of ‘Lungs Into Gills’ with its chanted refrain of “Ia! Ia! Abyssal choirs will sound!”. Final track ‘Thou Shalt Not Speak His Name (The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos)’ is infused with a Black Metal pulse to accompany its blackened, ichorous heart, and closes the album with a malignant vaporous surge.
Augmented by a superb production, Hellion’s vocals (or ‘Incantations’), the drumming (or ‘Tentacles’) of ‘D’ (Daniel Dickmann), Schiemann’s bass, and the guitars (‘Ritualizations’) of Koort and ‘T’ (Torsten Horstmann) shine with the same macabre brightness as the amazing cover art by reliable longtime collaborator Ola Larsson.
Effortlessly combining traditional and progressive Death Metal, Black Metal, other-worldly chanting, and spoken word narration, The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos is a tumultuous crescendo of Middle-Eastern infused, Lovecraftian absurdity which stretches the imagination even further than before.
9 / 10