Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay is in many ways similar to Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes, the last album from Germany’s Downfall of Gaia. It’s also heavier in sound and less immediately accessible. Thus, the record is less memorable and cohesive-sounding as a whole but as equally rewarding with repeated listens.
The slight but significant stylistic shifts I hear here suggest to me that Downfall of Gaia have been paying attention to the crusty, swirling, and blackened sounds coming out of both the U.S. west coast (via Ash Borer and Fell Voices, to name a few) and their own country (via bands like Urnu and Sun Worship, the latter of whom also released a great album this year). The influence of other bands from a similar sonic milieu comes across most in the opening track, “Darkness Inflames These Sapphire Eyes,” which opens with a short, annoying instrumental drone. Sharp but sludgy riffs and agonized screams (low in the mix and possibly recorded live) suddenly intervene, however, and abruptly the album is in full swing. Second track “Carved into Shadows” sounds like a more balanced combination of those blackened metal influences and the melodic through-lines that I regard as one of Downfall of Gaia’s trademarks. It’s a monster of a track, and one that gets better every time I hear it. “To Carry Myself to the Grave” features the band giving us characteristic flourishes as well as a few moments of atmospheric pause and contemplation (the singular, heartbeat-like bass notes at the end of the song is one such example). Mid-way through “Whispers of Aeon” the rhythmic bass notes start up again, thus time accompanied by wispy tremolo notes. These little touches are what remind me that this is a Downfall of Gaia record. There’s artistic influence happening here, and while I wouldn’t call it subtle, as presented here it’s also welcome.
The little touches heard on Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay are less obvious than they were on Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes, and they can flow by if one isn’t paying close attention. Mostly the songs charge along with a narrower but more focused sense of purpose, but that makes those moments of nuance all the more noticeable and rewarding when they appear amidst what is generally a thoroughly enjoyable, if exhausting, metallic onslaught.