Urgehal’s Salute to Late Founder Is Dark Metal Masterpiece
Aeons in Sodom is the first release from Norway’s Urgehal since 2009 and also the first from the band since founding member, guitarist/vocalist Nefas passed in 2012. Determined to deliver a statement commensurate with the late dark lord’s accomplishments while walking this planet, remaining members Enzifer (guitars/other instruments) and Uruz (drums) retreated to the hallowed halls and go to work. The result is a collection of 10 originals and two covers that surpasses expectations. No doubt Nefas would flash a grim and wicked smile.
The late guitarist penned half of the material here while Enzifer takes up the other half. Friends from Darkthrone, Carpathian Forest, Shining and Sadistic Intent join in the proceedings and provide a thrilling record that combines the best elements of black metal and a punk-like energy that provides some of the most memorable moments.
The wicked guitar tones here are some of the best you could expect, especially on “Blood of the Legion” (featuring M. Shax of Endezzma on vocals). The rhythm parts are crusty, gurgling bobs of blood and guts that buoy the track at a breathtaking pace while Uruz’s drumming drives us into unholy territories that become more agonizingly delicious with each passing measure. But perhaps more important than all that, there are several times you find yourself humming those rhythm figures and, of course, throwing horns when the soloing kicks in. The same might be said for the punk-ish “Sulfur Black Haze”, a wild ride of terror and rage featuring Hoest of Taake behind the mic and more harrowing rhythms and moods from the band’s core. The most harrowing of those moments are the eerie lead guitar lines as they creep along, inching their way into your psychic core until, like a malevolent parasite, they’ve found purchase and will not leave. It’s a cool trick and one that is achieved by avoiding the obvious which, here, would be a babbling million notes a second. Instead the band comes of perfectly in sync here, tight, memorable and perfectly miserable.
“Lord of Horns” imagines what might have happened if Metallica recorded a black metal album around the time of Ride the Lightning with a bed of hairpin rhythms and lyrics demand that the listener sing along. But it’s some of the album’s longer, more in-depth moments that offer the greatest thrills, namely “Thy Daemon Incarnate”, a track filled with pure trademark Norwegian darkness and featuring Sorath Northgrove of Beatcraft and Vulture Lord. Of all the vocalists here, he’s the one that delivers the most frightening and vile performance, the one that convinces you that you might have actually opened a gate to hell just by letting your media player happen upon this tune.
“Endetid”, which immediately follows, could serve as a second part to that track, albeit an angrier, nastier second part and one that sends the listener sailing back across the ages to the classic era of San Francisco Bay Area thrash while also remaining deeply rooted in present day black effin’ metal. “Psychedelic Evil”, the album’s longest and most experimental track is also easily its best, if for no other reason than it compiles all the best parts from the other tunes and presents them in a fashion that keeps the listener on the edge of his (or her) throne amid surprising twists, turns and blows to the gut.
An ace cover of Sepultura’s “Funeral Rites” and brilliant reading of Autopsy’s “Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay” (on which the drums sound, appropriately enough, as though they were recorded inside a coffin and played by a decaying corpse) close out the collection, leaving us with just enough energy and curiosity to go back to the beginning and take the ride again.