Sulphur Aeon - Seven Crowns and Seven Seals
Van Records
Black/Death Metal
7 songs (45:53)
Release year: 2023
Van Records
Reviewed by Goat

These German cultists have been preaching Chthonic hymns for over thirteen years and four albums now, and it's interesting to look back across their discography and see how their sound has changed. Starting with almost brutal, gurling death metal, Sulphur Aeon have spread their scaly wings and taken on more black metal and epic melody to create something altogether different from their Behemothic origins. And although opinions will differ as to which era of the band (if we can already start referring to them as such) is best, there has been a steady improvement across the three albums to date that made 2018's The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos one of the best, most memorable and spine-rattling Lovecraft-themed albums yet to come from the extreme metal world. This streak sadly ends here; Seven Crowns and Seven Seals is a solid follow-up that builds on the clean vocals and melodic direction embarked upon, but disappointingly fails to have as great an effect in terms of songwriting.

Perhaps this is just due to how good the previous album was, yet the tracks here do seem to make less of an impact in direct comparison. The blackened speedy churn of Usurper of the Earth and Sea rattles along viciously before opening into woozy melodic flourishing, a more atmospheric and ritualistic vibe effective in its own right but not hitting the same epic heights as before - perhaps due to being slightly too long, not to mention a meandering outro? The length of several pieces here drags them down slightly, as does the not-quite-perfect clean singing on the likes of The Yearning Abyss Devours Us, where the dry snarl of vocalist M is far more effective. Thankfully the musicianship remains excellent and mostly is worth listening to for its own right, particularly the interplay between T's guitars and S's bass and synthesized soundscapes, ensuring the atmospheric effect of the music remains compelling even if the songwriting has taken a step back.

And certain songs are still exceptional here. First track proper Hammer From the Howling Void has a rumblingly heavy opening before opening into a more melodic and doomy centre section focusing on simultaneous harsh and clean vocals, returning to crushing blackened death by the finale - undoubtedly one of the album's strongest pieces. And although Arcane Precambrian Sorcery feels like a step back towards Behemoth and even Amon Amarth territory at points, it's still one of the catchier songs present. Elsewhere, however, things disappoint; the slower-paced title track with its clumsy gothic clean vocals detracts from the power of the growled incantatory verses, even with a nicely bluesy bit of soloing towards the end. And finale Beneath the Ziqqurats is something of a damp squib even at over nine minutes the longest track present, trying to be a nicely dramatic death metal piece but more often feeling forgettable. That's the ultimate arrow in the sling aimed at Seven Crowns; it's very easy to feel bored with the album, even at a fairly tight 45 minutes' length. Certainly not a disaster, but far from the best material the band have produced.

Killing Songs :
Hammer From the Howling Void, Arcane Precambrian Sorcery
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Sulphur Aeon that we have reviewed:
Sulphur Aeon - The Scythe of Cosmic Chaos reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Sulphur Aeon - Gateway to the Antisphere reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Sulphur Aeon - Swallowed by the Ocean's Tide reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
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