Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay1 is a chimera of black, doom, and sludge metal whose flavor is difficult to describe sans the cliché of comparisons to other bands.2 So it goes.
Downfall of Gaia are a German group who mix heavy, repetitious riffing with the aesthetics of post-metal and atmospheric doom metal. Obviously influenced by American black metal à la Krallice and Weakling,3 Aeon is a curious album to find on Metal Blade Records, whose roster generally favors traditional heavy metal and death metal as opposed to the meandering and “experimental” attributes of the aforementioned two bands. Some lyrics are in English, but the majority are in German; they aren’t decipherably enunciated, so the screams are better viewed as just another instrument in the mix.
Listeners of Downfall of Gaia’s previous albums4 will notice a decline in the deep-pitched screams and harder, down-tuned riffing; Aeon has much more in common with the band’s black metal roots, as the trio of lead singers Anton Lisojov, Dominik Goncalves dos Reis,5 and Peter Wolff opt for a much higher-pitched scream that is not quite a shriek. The results are mixed: while accentuating the blackened milieu, it sounds derivative and strained; it often devolves into an awkwardly low-quality cough/scream.6 Tremolo-picked guitars are a requisite in blackened doom; Downfall of Gaia certainly have plenty to spare. Michael Kadnar is an apt percussionist who shows black metal is not solely blast beats; his talents on Aeon favorably compare to Deafheaven’s Daniel Tracy on 2013’s Sunbather.
The main tracks are quite good, however there are two very simple instrumental tracks that are not engaging. One is a short interlude; the other, an album closer. Neither has the capacity to enthrall quite so much as those featuring vocals; the latter utilizes a soft-loud-soft dynamic of sludge metal and metalcore and ends with staticky noise.
Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay is an average album of atmospheric metal. There are a few arresting tracks, but the rest sound like incomplete demos; the latter tracks either have poor vocals, or are too derivative of other bands. The bilingual status adds depth that lacks in the instrumentation due to the lack of uniqueness.7 This being said, “To Carry Myself to the Grave” is a must-listen and would fit well on a playlist featuring Burzum, Ash Borer, and the likes.
1. Darkness Inflames These Sapphire Eyes – (9:37) – ★★★☆☆
2. Carved into Shadows – (10:20) – ★★★☆☆
3. Ascending the Throne – (2:37) – ★☆☆☆☆
4. Of Stillness and Solitude – (8:13) – ★★★☆☆
5. To Carry Myself to the Grave – (8:56) – ★★★★☆
6. Whispers of Aeon – (11:49) – ★★☆☆☆
7. Excavated – (8:34) – ★★☆☆☆
[UPDATE 28 March 2016: Changed the overall rating from three stars to two-and-a-half stars, along with some track reviews.]
1The purple prose title is a loving tribute to the somewhat-broken English found in old Norwegian black metal releases (e.g. Burzum). Weakling did the same thing on Dead as Dreams. Either fun or hackneyed, your call.
2A statement that is telling in its own right.
3There I go…
4E.g. Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes, to which I recommend a listen or two.
6Most egregiously heard in opener “Darkness Inflames These Sapphire Eyes.”
7Every album need not be original – just look at Oasis and Definitely Maybe – but there does need to be something that separates it from the pack. That’s a totally loaded music-critic line, but it is valid.