Friday, 28 December 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Sulphur Aeon, "The Scythe of the Cosmic Chaos"

By: Conor O’Dea

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 21/12/2018
Label: Van Records

It is dynamic, transporting, deeply mature and brilliantly executed.  “Scythe of the Cosmic Chaos” easily ranks among the top albums of 2018.

“The Scythe of the Cosmic Chaos” CD//DD//2LP track listing:

1. Cult of Starry Wisdom
2. Yuggothian Spell
3. The Summoning of Nyarlathotep
4. Veneration of the Lunar Orb
5. Sinister Sea Sabbath
6. The Oneironaut - Haunting Visions Within the Starlit Chambers of Seven Gates
7. Lungs Into Gills
8. Thou Shalt Not Speak His Name (The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos)

The Review: 

"... The walls melted away, and I was swept by a black wind through gulfs of fathomless grey with the needle-like pinnacles of unknown mountains miles below me. After a while there was utter blackness, and then the light of myriad stars forming strange, alien constellations."

- H.P. Lovecraft, "The Book"

It is nearly impossible for me to relate how I came to be here, in this state, near mad and plagued by nightmares. A fragment of the cosmos according to Azathoth, a cthonic gospel in eight blasphemous hymns, has fallen into my hands in the course of my pursuit of things hidden and forbidden, and I have listened, listened to the void and have become damnedI am forced into this account because other listeners may well refuse to follow my advice without knowing why. Let me pray that, if I do not survive this review, that my editors may put caution before audacity and see that this music greets no other ear without an awareness of the perils embedded therein. 

Sulphur Aeon are the primus inter pares of the extreme metal heralds that dare to bring us tales of Lovecraft's disordered, nihilistic and meaningless universe. Sulphur Psalms (2010) already bares the tell-tale traces of the mental and emotional scars associated with too many encounters with damned incanabula and unnameable entities, but as witnesses of horrors as opposed to the evangelists of those same abominations. 

“Deep Down They Sleep” (2012) is demonstrative of men who have immersed themselves too long in knowledges best forgotten and a clear tidal mark of having disturbed things best left asleep. It is in this two-track that we first get a true sense of the esoteric conjurings and depth of atmosphere that the band goes on to deepen in their future albums. There is a first warning of the cavernous oceanic depths and bleak cosmic emptiness that marks the sonic landscapes of both the excellent “Swallowed by the Ocean's Tide” (2013) and the brilliant “Gateway to the Antisphere” (2015), which remains one of my favourite metal albums of the last decade and one that I return to listen to regularly. The band has consistently displayed an unerring capacity to capitalize on their strengths in developing winding, hypnotic melodies and absolutely entrancing atmosphere and ambience; there is little doubt you are in the hands of the preachers of the cosmic chaos itself when you take the time to sit and absorb this music. Each iteration brings new depth, new clarity to their vision, and a renewed sense of awe, wonder and horror for the rapt listener. 

“Scythe of the Cosmic Chaos” opens with the eerie “Cult of Starry Wisdom”, a haunting and ominous track that tells the story of the faithful coming to pledge themselves to Great Old Ones and Outer Gods. There is a beautiful, Pink Floyd-reminiscent segue at the end of this track that leads into the utterly furious “Yuggothian Spell”, a menacing, swirling cyclone of unspeakable magics inspired by Lovecraft's Whisperer in Darkness. The Crawling Chaos himself manifests in the “Summoning of Nyarlathotep”, and evokes the sense of a seeker further imperiling both his mortal soul and immortal mind in contacting this terrible being. 

Veneration of the Lunar Orb”, likely a reference to Lovecraft and Barlow's superb The Night Ocean brings us back to the edge of the fathomless sea beneath an unspeaking moon. Sulphur Aeon's sepulchral marine gospel continues as the children of Dagon are referenced both in “Sinister Sea Sabbath” and “Lungs into Gills”, a direct encomium to the infamous Shadow over Innsmouth. Shifting into the strange, ethereal realms of Lovecraft's dream-cycle, The prog-inflected “Oneironaut” moves us from the drowned into the dreamed, the multiversal space in which things not dead may eternally lie. The final fury of closing (and title) track “Scythe of the Cosmic Chaos” raises the spectre of the King in Yellow himself, Hastur the Unspeakable, Lord of Carcosa. This is a dramatic and fitting close to the powerful nightmare journey that this album embodies, with a clean vocal ending that brings to mind the gothic baritone of Fields of the Nephilim's Carl McCoy.  

“Scythe of the Cosmic Chaos” is not yet my favourite Sulphur Aeon album, but it is their best. It is dynamic, transporting, deeply mature and brilliantly executed. Profoundly holistic, greater than the sum of its excellent parts, “Scythe of the Cosmic Chaos” easily ranks among the top albums of 2018. 

"And vast infinities away, past the Gate of Deeper Slumber and the enchanted wood and the garden lands and the Cerenerian Sea and the twilight reaches of Inganok, the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep strode brooding into the onyx castle atop unknown Kadath in the cold waste, and taunted insolently the mild gods of earth whom he had snatched abruptly from their scented revels in the marvellous sunset city. 

- H.P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

“The Scythe of the Cosmic Chaos” is available HERE

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