The label “power trio” gets thrown around a lot, but Tides of Sulfur… man, this Welsh band really is a goddamned power trio, and their debut album Extinction Curse is as brutally heavy as a late-stage bone cancer that has metastasized to all the organs.
Tides of Sulfur brew a poisonous and intoxicating concoction using stylistic elements drawn from sludge, doom, and death metal, laced with killer riffs that sometimes bring to mind the swampy, narcotic attractions of stoner doom.
Thanks to the recording and mixing talents of Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio and mastering by Today is the Day’s Steve Austin, the album also has an immense, powerhouse sound that will threaten the integrity of your skeletal structure.
Working your way through the album from start to finish is a heady and head-battering experience, due in part to the strategic sequencing of the songs, as well as the changing soundscapes within the songs themselves. You get a taste of this at the very beginning, with opener “Eternal Bleeding”. Launched by huge, sludgy doom chords and haunting ambient sounds, it immediately builds an apocalyptic atmosphere — and then the song switches gears and launches an overpowering tank attack commanded by raw, caustic, serrated yells and bestial growls.
After the earth-shaking detonation of “Eternal Bleeding”, “…Of Suffering and Grief” changes course, creating an immediate contrast with slow, somber guitar notes and deep, clean vocals that sound like Leonard Cohen on an especially bad day. And then the song starts to crush and chug like a titanic bulldozer on a large-scale demolition job.
“Woe To You O Destroyer” kicks the tempo up, striking like the attack of a rhythmically attuned mortar battery, while the following track “Maltheist” is an enormous, slow-moving, doom-drenched summoning of catastrophe — staggeringly bleak, oppressive, and hallucinatory.
Looming just ahead after “Maltheist” is the titanic, 12-and-a-half-minute title track, a long crawl through suffocating tar with detours into episodes of skull-cleaving pile-driving and writhing, pulsing mayhem.
The booming, tumbling, high-energy drumming in “Iron Fists Shall Rust” is one of the standout features of that track, which also includes a highly infectious central riff, while the closing track “Year of Pigs” begins with a lilting guitar motif, a gamboling drum rhythm, and an exotic, penetrating melody that shines rays of light into a very dark album… until the song devolves into a doom-laden stagger and a finale that seems like the slow, labored exhalation of final breaths.
In addition to wisps of haunting ambient sound and isolated, nearly clean guitar arpeggios, the band also add other contrasting ingredients here and there throughout the album, in sparse but effective fashion, including blackened bursts of blast-beats and vicious tremolo riffing. And the vocals themselves are also varied and well-matched to the changing moods and speeds of the songs, ranging from savage shrieks to gravelly growls to wrenching mid-range howls of pain and fury.
Extinction Curse is tremendously impressive, and remarkably mature and accomplished for a debut full-length. Make no mistake, it’s a bleak, devastating experience, but one that’s nonetheless electrifying from start to finish.
Extinction Curse will be out on July 15 via Black Bow Records. Pre-order it here: