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Cthulhu for President - 87%

lonerider, May 30th, 2014

For anyone who has avidly read Lovecraft or even studied him on an academic level, it has to be astounding how well these relative newcomers from Germany, both lyrically and musically, convey the very essence of Lovercraft’s work, particularly that of the so-called Cthulhu Mythos. And what’s more, they achieve that goal with different means than one might expect. Considering the eldritch, otherworldly atmosphere of Lovecraft’s narratives and the utterly alien nature of his extraterrestrial “gods”, the Ancient or (Great) Old Ones, the more obvious approach to capturing this specific atmosphere would be the incorporation of grandiose ambient soundscapes and lots of eerie audio samples. Sulphur Aeon had something different in mind, however: what they deliver on “Swallowed by the Ocean’s Tide” is basically a no-frills brutal death metal assault. The album sees the band eschewing any overtly ambient elements in favor of other key ingredients that get the job done just as well, namely haunting, almost hypnotic black metal-ish guitar harmonies, apt lyrics and a most fitting production job.

It does help matters, of course, that the album’s artwork is a thing of beauty. Especially the amazing front cover is every Lovecraft aficionado’s dream – if you ever tried to picture the great Cthulhu bursting forth from the confines of his watery grave amid the sunken ruins of the lost city of R’lyeh, it would probably look just like this. That drawing truly is a work of art and almost makes you want to purchase the album in vinyl form, notwithstanding the fact you don’t even own a record player to spin it on. But let’s get back to the production: it basically has a muffled or droning quality to it, making it seem somewhat distant, almost as if covered with a layer of water ten thousand meters deep. It sounds weird at first and may take some getting used to (the drums in particular), but it won’t be long before you realize that it’s all by design and the album was never meant to sound any other way: the aquatic theme of the Lovecraftian lyrics, the image of the great Cthulhu lurking miles beneath the sea, in the eternal blackness of the fathomless depths – it all goes hand in hand and that concept is indeed executed to perfection.

Looking at the actual music, more established artists that may serve as reference points are, to name just a few that spring to mind, bands such as Behemoth, Hypocrisy (in their fiercest, most brutal moments) or the now defunct God Dethroned. Very simply put, it’s like a blend of American and European/Swedish-style death metal – not quite as technical as the former and not quite as blunt or archaic as the latter variety –, with a fair measure of blackened melodies, overall brutality and a ghoulish, occult atmosphere added to the mix. In between the brief intro “Cthulhu Rites” setting the tone and the neat instrumental “Zombi” rounding things off (it never hurts to have intros/outros that are actually worth listening to), “Swallowed by the Ocean’s Tide” is an album of mostly consistent quality, exhibiting but one minor flaw: predictability. Following the album’s very strong first half, which culminates in the majestic title track, the level of songwriting takes a slight dip, all the more exposing the lack of variation, the absence of any real surprises and the slight monotony beginning to take hold. “Monolithic” and “From the Stars to the Sea” aren’t bad songs as such; they are just not as good as the ones preceding them. Luckily, the album picks up steam again toward the end, with the last proper track “Beneath. Below. Beyond. Above.” wrapping things up in stellar fashion.

To make a long story short: if Cthulhu were running for president and he used this album as theme music for his election campaign, you, after listening to this splendid soundtrack compiled by his devoted disciples from Sulphur Aeon, would most definitely vote for him. (Not that Cthulhu would actually need an election to conquer and usurp this planet and its puny inhabitants, mind you.) After all, if he were elected (and there is no doubt he would win by a landslide), the only marked difference to ordinary politicians would be that the inevitable end of the world – or at least of our so-called civilization – would descend upon us with a lot more vigor and swiftness.

Choicest cuts: The Devil’s Gorge, Where Black Ships Sail, Swallowed by the Ocean’s Tide, Beneath. Below. Beyond. Above.

Swallowed By Oceans of Death and Darkness - 98%

Opus_Oculto, July 28th, 2013

I've always been looking for metal bands that could give new meaning to the style, escape the cliches, and provide an innovator sound. Swallowed By The Ocean’s Tide maybe cannot match all the previous items, but it is an album that draws attention for not using the death/black metal old formulas. It is indeed a dark album, fast and heavy, but at the same time presents a musical theme that is beyond the common place of death metal: chaotic blast beats, lyrics about blood, death, destruction, apocalypse, fast but non-creative guitars and powerful but unpleasant vocals. The large balcony of Sulphur Aeons’ debut album was to rewrite all this in a different way, with an unusual theme, almost building a conceptual album about the saga of the creature C'thulhu.

The opening track already shows a little bit of what lies ahead, a chant of voices having as background the sound of the ocean waves. An introduction to the epic second track, Incantation, which is a mixture of fast riffs, melodic and epic passages, guttural vocals and many powerful blast-beats. The work of the guitars and vocals throughout the entire album is outstanding, definitely something you do not hear every day. The fact that the vocal is double recorded in the choruses (vocals upon vocals) gives a greater grandeur to the music, and you really feel in an epic battle on the seabed. The lyrics are also very literary, as in this passage from Incantation:

"Hear me, oh Titan of the Sea,
Great c'thulhu, Dreamer In The Deep,
Rise from aqueous grave"

An important feature of this album are the guitars which bring melodies fairly clean (as in Heartwork, by Carcass) that alternate with passages with a darker sound (as in Diabolis Interium, by Dark Funeral). It is also an album that alternates very fast tracks (The Devil's Gorge) with more down tempo and epic tracks (like the title track, Swallowed by the Ocean's Tide and From The Stars to the Sea).

In summary, Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide introduces many new elements to the melodic death/black metal sonority, making an epic sound with strong vocals, fast riffs and quality and above all, with a creative theme. It is a very worthwhile album, if you want to discover something new in extreme music.

Death metal certified: prepare to get schooled - 92%

Anthony8660, June 21st, 2013

Yes, 92% is such a high rating. It's actually near perfection. Sometimes, I tend to criticize reviewers for giving an album a high score because they don't have valid--coherent arguments. What is a good analysis? It's all about objectivity and once again, you've all heard about this neutralguy-attitude before. I'm not trying to teach you anything, I just wanted to say that I recognize a good reviewer when he/she develops and elaborates about all aspects and substances of a record. Who gives a fuck how high or how low the score is when it's well defended? I don't really like fanboys and to be honest, I don't have any idols. I also don't have a specific--favorite band, only bands I appreciate more than others. Worshipping a band and it's music--ideology can make you blind and thus avoid the real flaws of their material and finally, distract you from it's real content. Anyway, you know what? Fuck this already, I'm sorry. I'll be a fanboy FOR ONCE, so let me go straight to the point: Sulphur Aeon fucking rules and pulled out on their first try, a gripping, riveting full length, amongst the best releases of our modern death metal era.

Alright, now that I've mentioned how compelling this seems to be, I shall have some criteria's to explain about how Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide managed to entertain me through this whole musical experience. I will go into details soon, but like autothrall said in his conclusion, our German friends are a perfect mixture of old school and modern death metal: yes, you're going to get schooled till the end.

The first thing that picked my curiosity and interest about this record was its impressive songwriting and performance. Sulphur Aeon is not poor a ripoff attempt, like most new wave thrash bands for example. I find that most of them are dull and irritating. They're far from your typical neohipsters ala Beyond Creation. You're not going to find any wankery or a reminiscent dicksucking Suffocation clone who brings nothing new to the genre. I promise you. Somehow in 2013, the band has been able to create their own atmosphere and sound, while grabbing interesting and valuable influences. Without a doubt, they produced something completely refreshing, powerful and epic. Our death metal blender has successfully incorporated variety and vanity. I can assure you that Swallowed By The Ocean's tide is a maritime voyage that you won't forget.

Do you like melodic leads ala Desultory? I fucking love them, and I believe this is a great comparison to the record's guitarwork. Especially on Where The Black Ship Sails, the melodies are great, catchy and delivers the expected bitterness, more precisely, it is an overall, enthralling dark atmosphere which perfectly suits the album cover. Oh and on this one , you'll find some great Dissection influences, aiming towards the direction of songs like God of Forbidden Light. On the track Inexorable Spirits, I enjoyed some great Dismember riffs and when the melodic part kicks in at exactly 0:49, we get more Desultory worship and greatness. This will fucking haunt your head, I SWEAR! The next song, The Devil's Gorge, reminds me of Unleashed's riffing style and Incantation's grooves too. At 1:47, you'll know what I mean, and furthermore you'll understand after the solo transition from 3:07 to 3:29.

On the other side, Sulphur Aeon's vocalist, Martion Hellion, is a vehement, guttural, seastorm. Man, this guy is like a mixed version of Aeternam's and Immolation's vocalists, he delivers a strong, pungent performance. The thick production of this album make him sound really evil and powerful, I can't think of anything similar to this, far from being overproduced, in this case it can't get any better: this is nuts. Also, his pronunciation is surprisingly good, which is something I really appreciate because I can understand the lyrics without staring at the booklets and directly dive into the record's engrossing obscurity.

The guitars and drums are taking most of the space, they're doing nothing bad at all, apart from being amazing, but this is why I took off a few points, the bass is almost inaudible. I would have loved to hear more of what the bass player is capable of and hopefully, on the next record, we will get a more balanced and equal instrument combination. You can tell that Torsten Horstmann is a meticulous guitar player. Perhaps, I'd love the band to get a talented bass player, so now everybody will have its own mastery of their instruments. It will definitely add an important, interesting and shining--missing element that is forgotten on many great records. The bass players will be pleased, they'll be able to enjoy to attend this death metal jizzfest too (but I'm sure they still enjoy this record).

Swallowed By Ocean's Tide is an impressive concept album. It's one of the main reasons why I absolutely dig it. It's a very original effort, both intros Cthulu Rites/Zombi are channelling results, in which the listeners are going through different emotions. When I first listened to the CD, I felt that a spellbinding Leviathan monster was slowly, annihilating and consuming me. And then, after ten songs, a fucking titanic seaboner dropped in my pants, letting me know that I survived this twilight journey, with one of the most memorable guitar leads, combined to a keyboard use that evokes an undiscovered ancient civilization. An hymn and perfect representation of the artwork content.

To conclude this review, Sulphur Aeon's first record is something rare. They went to the right death metal school and their release, Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide, is a 47 minutes of pure, massive and crushing death metal carnage. Sulphur Aeon's work is neckbreaking, this is undeniably memorable and captivating upon the first listen. You must prepare yourself to deal with a sea demon that will unfortunately kick your ass, you'll probably end up buying a new cunt. For real, here's an advice: It's kind of boring to hear about how hell sounds like and how Satan is a cool dude. Some death metal bands should take a few lessons in brutality and aim towards originality. It ain't too late to have take classes with these German metalheads. This is a total, innovative and profound nightmare. The Songwriting and performance are impeccable, the production is killer and the concept/lyrics are amazing. Seriously, you must check this out, I dare you. This is worth your time and investment: give this some spins and it'll become eventually a classic that will constantly keep growing on you. Hail 2013 and thank you Sulphur Aeon, now my hopes went up for what's coming next, bring it on. I want more. You must get your hands on this or else you're clearly missing out.

Marine biologists beware! - 90%

autothrall, January 11th, 2013

H.P. Lovecraft and his morbid Mythos are hardly a novel theme running in metal these days, and in fact a multitude of songs and entire concept albums have paid tribute through either direct translations of he and his followers' tales, or creative interpretations, across just about all the sub genres, from heavy and doom to black and death metal. So the gorgeous cover artwork and title to Sulphur Aeon's debut Swallowed by the Ocean's Tide are quite overt in their inspiration, as are the solemn chants through the intro piece "Cthulhu Rites", but I really have to hand it to these Germans: this is by far one of the best albums to date to represent the beloved horror author, because it does it so distinctly and differently from almost anyone else...

Sulphur Aeon is at its squamous, withering core a guitar and drum-heavy death metal trio, but the approach they take to the medium is frankly refreshing in the muddy wake of so many chasm-defiling Incantation clones, Swede-a-likes, and so forth. You could consider this old school, fast-paced death with loads of broiling tremolo harmonies and blast beats, threaded with chugging grooves and streaming, fluid picking progressions that hint of melodeath, but pointing out precise influences become more complicated. I sort of thought of it as a hybrid of ominous Morbid Angel growls and grooves with (Devin Townsend's) Ocean Machine in terms of that overwhelming sense of texture to the production which really encapsulates this forsaken, maritime menace. But even this doesn't exactly describe the structure of the guitars, which occasionally reminded me of the thick textures in modern Hypocrisy riffing. Depth charge kick drums, roiling, rich guitar tones and a voluminous, deep bass to the production create a suspense in the listener that he or she is being pressurized on all sides by the brine, Deep Ones pulling at his/her legs as they pull their victim to the ruins on the ocean floor. All the while, waves of ambiance cascade across the background of the riffs like fleeting pods of whales.

Many concept albums of this nature (in extreme metal, at least) have gone for a creepier, abstract vibe, which does play strongly to the atmosphere of the Mythos, but these Germans clout you and squeeze you with a suffocating majesty that works just as well. Think of this more as the 'reckoning' once the Old One has awakened, and not the chain of mysterious psychological events leading up to it. The cultists won, and now a fucking tsunami of tentacles lashes out infectiously through the sheer force of the presentation and balanced, muscular riff set that dominates at least the first half of the record. In fact, the first five full tunes here are utterly perfect. From the melodic swerves of "Incantation" to the black-metal inflected chords of the title track, I was completely floored and flooded by what was happening. It's only a little deeper in the track list, with tunes like "Those Who Dwell in Stellar Void" or "Beneath.Below.Beyond.Above" that it ever starts to feel redundant, that the well of ideas here has dried up ever so slightly. Even then, however, the band is still mightily consistent in sound, and the closing march "Zombi" with its sheen of glimmering wave-like melodies is a nice reprieve from the near 40 minutes of 'the bends' one might suffer from the heavier material's ballistic decompression.

Other than this marginal dive in quality as it progresses, Swallowed by the Ocean's Tide is unquestionable phenomenal. The production might prove too dense and saturated for some who like a lo-fi, stripped sound to their death metal instrumentation, but if you're open to the added weight of studio layering, this proves a wonderful proof of concept that really fits its artwork and theme. The vocals of 'M' Martin Hellion are not exactly novel for the field, a gruff guttural not unlike you'd expect from Nile or Tucker-era Morbid Angel, but I can't think of anything else that would have been able to hold it's own against the glorious oppression of the guitars. Ultimately, this just has everything I desire in a 21st century death metal outing. It draws upon a wealth of both old school and newer inspirations, it really doesn't sound 100% like anything else I've been listening to, and Sulphur Aeon exhibit a seasoned grasp of songwriting aesthetics: concise, heavily loaded with riffs that stick, and never boring. It might front load some of its otherworldly, amphibious thrills, but its truly a work of resonant, heart-stopping ferocity from the fathoms. Highly recommended, and not just to fish people.