DEATH RITUALS: SULPHUR AEON, HOUSE OF ATREUS, UNDERGANG, EVULSE, RESUMED, BLOOD OF THE WOLF
“It’s death metal” doesn’t really tell you very much, which is why fans of extreme music long ago began inventing an ever-expanding, increasingly-hyphenated roster of sub-genres. I suppose one of those is “ritualistic death metal”, a kind of phrase that’s difficult to define but you sort of know it when you hear it… sort of. However, my use of the label “Death Rituals” for occasional posts like this one isn’t really intended to describe the style of music, it’s just a short-hand preview of the fact that I’ve decided to devote a round-up of new music to different styles of death metal, and that’s what you’ll find below.
I’ll go out on a limb and assert that Sulphur Aeon’s Swallowed By the Ocean’s Tide was one of the most explosive death metal debuts of the last 10 years. It didn’t hurt that the cover art by Ola Larsson was equally attention-grabbing. Together, the art and the music vaulted this German band onto the radar screens of fans and critics across the metal-listening parts of the globe in strikingly impressive fashion, and they cemented their reputation with 2015’s Gateway to the Antisphere. Now Sulphur Aeon and Ola Larsson have joined forces again for the band’s third album, The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos.
The new album will be released by Ván Records on December 21 during the winter solstice, and today we got our first taste of the music through a video for a track called “Yuggothian Spell“. Continuing to pursue their Lovecraftian lyrical interests, the band describe the song as “the climax of Lovecraft’s “Haunter of the Dark” set to music, as simple as that”.
“Underlined by the song’s constant change between storming riffs and an almost doomy pace, it represents the protagonists’ descent into madness, in manic fear of what stares at him from the darkness of that ruined church, where he accidentally summoned the ancient evil, haunting him now.”
Oh yes, the song does start in storming fashion, and it certainly does channel the chaos of a descent into madness. And it does segue into a slower, frightening movement in which clean vocals enhance the blood-freezing effects of the song’s other-dimensional atmosphere. The song alternates between these two states of play, but doesn’t simply rehash the opening segments, instead creating variations that intensify the impression of being in the presence of an ancient, monstrous, implacable evil.
This fearsome song alone tends to banish any fears of a slump, though of course we’ll have to wait (eagerly) for the rest of the songs to make a considered judgment.
HOUSE OF ATREUS
Using my advanced powers of telepathy I can hear many of you exclaiming, “It’s about fucking time you wrote something about the new House of Atreus album!” Those of you yelling that already know how good the album is, and want as many other people as possible to be exposed to it. So even though I’m late, allow me to expose myself. OOOPS! I mean expose the album!
From The Madness Of Ixion was released on October 12th, and you can listen to all of it now on Bandcamp, so all I really want to say to those of you who haven’t checked it out yet is, “It’s about fucking time you did that!”
“Imperial Death Metal from Minnesota’s arrogant elite” is what House of Atreus proclaim about their creations, and there is an air of warlike imperiousness in the music, but that’s not all. The music is also a turbocharged thrill-ride, guaranteed to get your heart and head pumping hard from the music’s sheer electrifying power. For much of the album, House of Atreus fly like the wind in thrash-paced, technically impressive torrents of sound that are both bone-battering and head-spinning. And they’re such good song-writers that they manage to make these riveting romps catchy as hell, too.
Even when they ease off the throttle (as they do, for example, in the mid-paced openings of “Cordelia” and “Ad Hominem”), they keep the adrenaline flowing (and will get your head pounding even more vigorously), and there are moments when they jam the pedal even more forcefully to the floor, erupting into assaults of near-chaotic savagery. So, to repeat, if you haven’t yet checked this out, don’t delay any more — get on it!
P.S. I would encourage those of you who become enthralled by the music to visit the band’s Facebook page, where they’ve devoted a series of posts to the lyrics of the song, accompanied by paintings that suit the subject matter.
“Regurgitating sewer death metal” may not be a widely recognized musical sub-genre, but this self-description by Denmark’s Undergang could hardly be better (or funnier). Their new two-track EP, Den dobbelte Grav, was recorded in Earhammer Studio with Greg Wilkinson in the summer of 2016 during the same session that produced their last album, Misantropologi, and will be released as a 7″ on November 1st. It consists of an original song and a cover of Bolt Thrower‘s “Powder Burns” that Undergang decided to make GROSS!
Here’s the band’s explanation of the original song, which shares the EP’s title:
“Lyrics for ‘Den dobbelte grav‘ is written by Benni Bødker, Danish author (and much more) specializing in writing horror stories for the younger audience. The 7″ release of this EP is created by the idea from Benni and build around an anthology book he’s written called ‘Den dobbelte grav‘ (released November 2018) to which UNDERGANG’s David Mikkelsen has provided illustrations. On the side of his book Benni is releasing this 7″ EP, both presented by his publishing company Corto in November 2018.”
As I’ve said before, I do love this band, and their devotion to music that’s both obliterating in its heaviness and as foul as a charnel house packed with rotting meat. You get a full dose of rotten, crawling, doom-drenched, nausea-inducing metal of death in the title track, which also writhes like a heaping bowl of maggots. And yes, they do manage to put their own foul and fetid stamp on the Bolt Thrower song, which makes a fine companion for the opening track.
“Disgusting Death Metal from Oakland, California”. This also might not be a widely recognized musical sub-genre, but it too is an accurate description of what Evulse serve up on their new four-song EP, Call of the Void, though it’s an incomplete description. To “disgusting”, I would add “deranged”, “horrifying”, “neck-cracking”, “skull-splintering”, and just generally “berserk”.
The echoing, abyssal vocals are convincingly monstrous and wild; the roiling discordance of the riffing is enough to make you want to teeter in indecision between cowering in a corner and moshing with your furniture; the sheer athleticism of the drumming is worth the price of admission all by itself; and the slower movements create memorable moods of utter misery and desolation.
The songs on the EP are compact in their length, but Evulse need no more time than this to make an enormously favorable impression. (The band’s line-up includes members of Mortuous, Swamp Witch, and Augurs.)
Call of the Void was released by Transylvanian Tapes on October 22nd.
Last week the Italian tech-death band Resumed released an official video for “The Omen“, a track off their new album Year Zero, which was released on October 20th by Mighty Music. The tempo-dynamic song successfully integrates jolting, physically compulsive grooves, twisting spirals of head-warping melody, fluidly executed proggy arpeggios that are really beautiful to hear, and nasty vocal barbarism. I found it quite easy to get lost in the song.
The entire album is available for full streaming here.
(Thanks to TheMadIsraeli for recommending this video.)
BLOOD OF THE WOLF
The last song I chose for this deathly round-up is an advance track from Album I + II, which is a compilation set for release by Horror Pain Gore Death Productions on November 16th. It includes the first full-length of Chicago’s Blood of the Wolf, I: The Law Of Retaliation, released in 2015, and II: Campaign Of Extermination, released in April of this year. The one song from this double-release on Bandcamp is “Ours Is the Blood of Courage“.
At first the song is a shock-and-awe campaign, thanks to light-speed drum blasting, rushing waves of searing riffage, and incendiary vocal ferocity. It’s an intense assault, and yet a melodically alluring one… but the song becomes even more alluring when the no-holds-barred barbarism abates for a brief interlude. When the song detonates again, and you get another blast-front of technically impressive fury, something that was lurking in the song all along seems to become more prominent — an air of bleak majesty rising up through all the fury.
Is this the universe in which Sulphur Aeon didn’t record Gateway to the Antisphere as their sophmore release? NCS definitely covered it so it’s a bit weird to read about The Scythe of the Cosmic Chaos being the follow up to their debut. The song definitely hits all the right notes though, so I’m eagerly awaiting the album’s release.
My friend, unless I’m mistaken, this will be Sulphur Aeon’s third album. Swallowed By The Ocean’s Tide would be the first.
And you sir are correct! I was in such a hurry to get this done that I neglected to mention “Gateway to the Antisphere”, but I’ve now corrected my oversight. Thanks.
Yeah, I fucked up. Was rushing to add this segment on Sulphur Aeon at the last minute and get it done this morning before going to the airport. Still not sure how I could have forgotten about “Gateway…”, but I’ve now fixed my goof.
No worries, just trying to help. Love NCS.
Man, this year’s end lists are going to be wicked. So many great albums.
By all that is unholy, a new Sulphur Aeon album!
Time to listen to that song until I’m sick of it.
You won’t get sick of it. 🙂
Actually, you know what? I decided to listen to the other stuff on the list before sickening myself with Sulphur Aeon, and the greatness of House of Atreus is well beyond my ability to express with words, or any other means of expression really. All I can do is sit here, grinning like an idiot with my eyes shut.
Wait a minute–isnt that album cover of House of Atreus exactly the same cover as the Desaster album “Oath of an Iron Ritual” (from 2016)??
It was originally a John Martin painting.Thing is they also have another cover which is way better imo so I dunno why they bother using that John Martin painting which then became a Desaster Album cover.
Thank you NCS for finally covering House of Atreus. Not many bands makes that kind of style of melodeath and I hope HoA gets better in the third album and get more exposure so more bands can do that kind of melodeath. The one who originally bring forth those kind of great riffs is…pretty problematic to say the least…
Superb. Gratitude for the Sulphur Aeon; looks like Svaridauði’s new album will be out from Ván around the same time! GREAT list, btw!!
Glad you enjoyed the list. There’s still so many exciting albums yet to come even though we’re rapidly nearing year-end.