Released: 2015, Ván Records/Imperium Productions
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
As much as I love death metal, it's not often that a band or album delivers that “holy shit!” moment that really gets me jazzed, since most are basically just variations on similar themes – and have been for quite some time. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.
But once in a blue moon, a band will really put their own stamp on whatever variation is their oeuvre – or just plain kill it with a performance that transcends the ordinary. Germany's Sulphur Aeon are one of those rare bands that does both with their new second album, Gateway To The Antisphere. And it delivers one “holy shit” moment after another.
This trio - vocalist Martin “M.” Hellion, guitarist/bassist Torsten “T.” Horstmann and drummer Daniel “D.” Dickman - certainly aren't reinventing any wheels here. Their Lovecraft-inspired, black metal-tinged death metal inferno channels the agility of Morbid Angel, the majesty of Nile, the vehemence of Behemoth and the atmospheric scale of English cult faves Mithras or Keep of Kalessin.
But Sulphur Aeon so adeptly incorporate savage grace and finesse into the near unrelenting brutality on Gateway To The Antisphere that the album ends up being as elegant and is it punishing. And it makes for an exhilarating listen.
As “T” alternates between a corrosive grind, soaring, shimmering sweeps and razor-sharp hooks, the music here is intricate, complex and often quite mesmerizing, yet wisely never ventures into tech-death territory that might steal some of its thunder. There's no need for a million notes when a few well-structured, fluid riffs will do the trick, and “T” proves that on Gateway with devastating authority – and, remarkably, with little in the way of soloing.
The steady fusillades of double-bass/blast beats from “D,” who is a veritable machine throughout, and the determined roar of “M” help in that regard too. They help drive “Devotion To The Cosmic Chaos,” the spectacular, almost Emperor-like “Abysshex,” “He Is Gate” and “Onwards … Towards Kadath” ever forward while offering enough dexterity to enhance “T”'s sleek, muscular guitar work. The monumental title track and “Seventy Steps,” especially, are fucking amazing, both elaborate, gloriously bombastic masterpieces that are cleverly inviting in spite of their inherent brutality.
Indeed, every song here has an epic, massive feel to it thanks to the layered, wall of sound production by Simon Werner that could prove tricky to replicate in a live environment – even with a second guitarist, not to mention a bassist. But on “record?” Holy shit does it sound awesome.