Friday, February 15, 2013

Sons Of Aeon - Sons Of Aeon (2013)

It could be shown that, over the course of music history, a band can be their own worst enemy. Break ups, writers block, apathy; those all come from within, and are often too much to overcome. For Sons Of Aeon, a melodic death metal band from Jyväskylä, Finland, they might be their biggest opposition, and biggest supporter all in one. Formed in 2010 and including in their ranks former Swallow the Sun drummer Pasi Pasanen, this five piece is not short on creativity and technical prowess. But it is in the way the album shapes up that creates the biggest obstacle the band may ever face. It is an exercise in album dynamics; a reminder that the order of the tracks can sometimes be as important as the tracks themselves. And on this, their self titled debut album, they spend two songs backing themselves into a corner, and nine songs proving they didn't belong there in the first place.

With the towering, nearly eight minute long "Faceless" leading off an album of intimidating stature and length, the bands wastes no time asserting their will on the unsuspecting listener. While their is a distinct guitar melody in those opening minutes, it is soon buried beneath a wall of thrashing riffs and rabid distortion. Switching back and forth between the two is what makes things interesting, something that makes the first three minutes seem almost as though it is a separate track entirely. As the vocal enter, a mix between blood curdling screams and devilish growls, that contrast goes by the wayside, replaced by a more one dimensional approach. But it is the opening barrage on "Cold Waves" that cements the album into the mold from which it tries to escape. The musicianship is mechanical to a fault, often coming off as too good to be real. But it also fails to move left or right, going right down the middle far too often. With the exception of a few twirling riffs and a down tempo bridge, the track rides the same pony for the duration of the first half, something that becomes more noticeable as you deviate further in the second. It seems to be a tale of two bands; one straightforward and basic, the other looking for more. The latter is found on "Burden," which finally adopts the aggressive melodic death approach you may have been waiting for. Taking a page from the book of bands like Insomnium, they fuse those deathly growls of Tony Kaikkonen with a driving guitar melody in a perfect contradiction.

Having found their groove, "Enemy Of The Souls" sees guitarists Tapio Vartiainen and Wille Naukkarinen dominating the mix. Their rhythm and lead riffs take control, most notably in the chorus sections. It is here that the entire band comes together in the most forceful and punishing fashion, with each downstroke weighing down on you. Immediately, though, that blow is softened by the acoustic intro to "The Centre," one that seems to be counterproductive in the big picture sense. Taken separately, it is a beautiful and soothing piece of music, but it does rob some of the momentum the band has worked so hard to build. But as the first kick drum is struck just shy of the halfway mark, you realize that you are in a bizarre place; could this be the Sasquatch of the metal repertoire? The elusive melodic death ballad? The pained vocals and massive guitar melodies seem to scream death metal, while the velvety smooth bass line of Tommi Kiviniemi whispers sweet nothings into your ears. Perhaps the most straightforward track on the album, "Havoc & Catharthis" doesn't sugar coat what it is, a straight ahead assault on your senses. No twists, no turns; a double kick drum fueled massacre of screams, growls and grunts. And while there are certainly multiple layers of distortion and finger wizardry to digest on "Weakness," it is the drumming of Pasanen that stands above the rest. His style is very distinct, beautifully timed, and crushingly aggressive.

It is no coincidence that the shortest track on the album, the three and half minute "Seeds Of Destruction," is also one of the most spring loaded as well. Embodying that hair thrashing visual that metal fans often try to describe to outsiders, the band plows ahead with no regard for human safety, sometimes delving into the darkest of thrash metal tenets. The drumming alone leading into the bridge is devastating in speed and scope. Only slightly longer, but equally accessible, the gallop of "Wolf Eyes" may leave it standing as one of the most complete tracks on the album. The sog becomes a perfect combination of tempo and tone, all packaged with a catchy main riff that is sure to find itself on repeat in your mind for quite some time. It is here than the band accomplishes two very opposite goals: they both blend into the melodic death scene, as well as stand out from it. The former, thanks to sharing the common sound of the genre, and the latter based in their ability to execute and transcend it.   What they began before, they finish with the closing track, "Black Sheep Process." There is a noticeable change in the weather here, opting for the down tempo, crawling doom style more than they had in earlier tracks. With the absence of a vocal track, it is up to the guitars to share the lead, something they do with little issue. From start to finish, this is six minutes of music you won't want to end.

There are almost always going to be ups and downs on every album. Sometimes they are scattered throughout a disc, and other times they are concentrated into one area, be it beginning, middle or end. For Sons Of Aeon, their shortcomings are few, but not far between. With nearly every imperfections condensed into the first two tracks, the rest of the album is left looking nearly flawless. It is as if this album was a scientific experiment. They set up the obstacle, the mold in which they stuffed themselves early on, and spent the rest of the album tearing it apart, and blasting it to pieces. It is in those last fading notes that you can finally, officially, say that there is no mold strong enough, no tag big enough to contain what you heard here. And for a debut album, that says a whole lot more than any peer reviewed journal ever could.


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