Mar 152013

(What follows is Andy Synn’s review of the new album by Germany’s Sulphur Aeon.)

Let’s keep things short and sweet… this is an awesome album. Ass-crushingly evil death metal, with a bludgeoningly heavy guitar tone, a brooding horror-filled atmosphere, and a penchant for matching bloodthirsty extremity with chilling, epic melodies.

The funny thing is that, in all the reviews I’ve seen of the album, people have been throwing around a large assortment of different comparisons and influences – many of which seem either to be a case of people seeing what they want to see… or people copying what they’ve seen others write.

I won’t deny, for example, that there might well be elements comparable to the steamrollering death metal of Bolt Thrower or aspects of Dissection’s scalpel-sharp black metal fury present here, but I think people are fishing, rather awkwardly, when they speculate that these are primary influences… particularly when there are far closer, and far more accurate, comparisons to be made. It definitely seems like one writer felt like they heard a bit of Bolt Thrower in there, and everyone else has just copied him.


Perhaps the most accurate comparison I’ve seen drawn by others (I’ll get to my own thoughts shortly…) is with the more notably ‘extreme’ work of Hypocrisy, replacing that band’s gloomy UFO conspiracy angle with a more enigmatic, Lovecraftian vibe. Songs like “Inexorable Spirits” (with its massive rhythmic riffs and undercurrent of bleak, misanthropic melody) and the aptly-named “Monolithic” position the band as cousins (if not brothers) to the Swedish masters of death metal majesty, but with a core approach more corrosive and extreme.

Personally though, I think an even more accurate comparison would be with the much loved, and much missed, God Dethroned, if one replaced that band’s militaristic approach with a focus on the conjuring of more esoteric, and horrific atmospheres. The sheer evisceration of “Incantation” certainly seems (to me at least) to strengthen this idea, with its unholy mix of strafing riffs and devastating drumming barrage, interwoven with haunting ambience and scathing tremolo runs, while “Where Black Ships Sail” is an explosive storm of steel and shrapnel not far removed from the sound of Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross, stunningly extreme yet never sacrificing song-writing prowess or incisive melodic hooks.

Another comparison I’ve seen thrown at the band is Behemoth, and while I’m sure fans of the Polish destroyers would definitely appreciate Sulphur Aeon too, it’s a little disingenuous to actively compare the two bands as if they shared a common sound. Granted, they both undoubtedly share some similar influences (the sludgy bludgeon and coiled menace of “Swallowed By The Ocean’s Tide” certainly owes a debt to the conjured chaos of early Morbid Angel, for example), but SA are far from what I would consider “Blackened Death Metal”.

Though there is a blackness and a bleakness to the band’s sound that certainly bears out some of the comparisons with black metal, at least as an underlying influence – if only one of osmosis, rather than by a deliberate choice — you certainly wouldn’t label the grinding riffage of “The Devil’s Gorge” or the doomy thunder of “From The Stars To The Sea” as anything but pure death metal devastation, even when they weave threads of black-veined melody into the chaotic cacophony.

Indeed, the band seem to occupy a point particular to a certain type of European Death metal, a point that shares elements with Black Metal – a common ancestry if you will – which are largely inescapable, but which results in a sound very much separate both from the Floridian sound and from the tenets of Blackened Death Metal as a genre in itself.

It’s interesting, as Sulphur Aeon don’t specifically fall into either camp, and stand very much apart, but are still undeniably and unreservedly death metal to the core. A song like “Beneath. Below. Beyond. Above.” is neither blackened, nor sun-blasted, but somewhere in between – a mutant strain of clinical construction and lethal execution that draws both from the Black and Death camps, without emerging as a simple amalgamation of the two.

For all these comparisons (and I’m well aware that this review has been structured around the proposing and debunking of similarities with other bands and other genres), Swallowed By The Ocean’s Tide is very much an album that can stand on its own. It packs in a veritable arsenal of brutal riffage and gripping hooks, delivered with a powerful dynamic approach based in pulse-racing extremity, but with flashes of doom-laden darkness and majestic, ominous melody. What really sets it apart, though, is its crafting of malign atmospherics, such as the sinister ambience which haunts the edges of “Those Who Dwell In Stellar Void”, wrapping its bone-jarring riffage and throat-rending vocals in a deathly shroud, or the occult aura that permeates darkly triumphant closer “Zombi”.


Ultimately this is an unexpected treat, from out of left-field and right under the radar. It’s got a scope and ambition beyond the limits of simple wants and needs, one that gives back just as much (if not more) as you are prepared to put in as a listener. It’s an album of visceral impact and effectiveness, one that bears repeat listens and deeper contemplation. The atmosphere, the instrumentation, the execution, all combine perfectly to hit you on multiple levels.

Take a chance, let yourself be swallowed by the ocean’s tide.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Swallowed By the Ocean’s Tide is out now on the FDA Rekotz label. Here are two officially released tracks from the album.



  1. I need the name of the man/woman/beast that created that cover art.

  2. Holy. Fuck. I generally don’t go for straight up death metal but this is amazing. The mixing is just so spot on; the low end is absolutely thunderous and sounds like it’s coming at you straight from the ocean’s depths. I don’t really know what I’d compare it to. I guess there’s a LITTLE Bolt Thrower in there but I wouldn’t call it a key influence either. Whatever it is, it’s a fucking monster.

  3. This album does indeed kick ass.

  4. This album is absolutely crushing..For me, this could have very easily fallen into the the “too clean, too precise, not my thing” catagory, but holy shit they knocked it out of the park. Just the intro was enough to make me sit up and pay attention

    …and that album cover is unbelievable

  5. Good album! To me it sounds somewhere between Vader’s latest material and Ulcerate. I don’t listen to much death metal but this was just sick! And I agree that the album’s cover art is fantastic.

  6. This album has been one of the true highlights of the year thus far. Absolutely devastating music, and that cover art is incredible.

  7. So far this is 2013’s Khonsu.

  8. I’ll listen to it again. I might be the only person who didn’t think it was that great.

  9. Really digging the music, and that album cover might be one of the best I’ve ever seen.. stunning work.

  10. When is the US release date? Do they have a CD or is it digital download only? Amazon only has it listed as an import.

  11. I listen to a lot of death metal, an admittedly well-worn genre in terms of sound and theme, so I’m always on the lookout for something new and fresh and hair on edge exciting and this album exactly fits the bill. I have no problem calling it blackened death metal as it borrows many of the musical influences with, refreshingly, none of its ‘hail Satan’ lyrically themes. I think these guys have their own sound going on, but loosely comparing them to God Detroned (Passiondale, or Ironcross) in terms of thick, crunchy, unrelenting wall of sound -striking the perfect balance between dirty and polished production or even more loosely Behemoth with its blast-furnace vocals is not out of line. Such comparisons help potential buyers take a chance on an unknown band by giving a vague idea of what to expect. I instantly liked so I downloaded it from Amazon for $7.99 and made an apple lossless out of it. I prefer physical CD’s especially with fucking awesome cover art (which perfectly captures the sound of the album) but its so expensive DL is my only option. Finally, this and Disma’s Towards the Megalith are to of my favorite from-out-of-nowhere death metal releases of the past couple of years.

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