Black and death metal have been kissing cousins for longer than anyone would probably care to admit. Even when the corpse painted legions of Scandinavia took over as the underground’s flavor of the month in the early to mid 90s, while death metal seemed to, in general, take the proverbial back seat, the two genres were more closely related through a handful of seminal artists than anyone probably realized. So it should be to the surprise of no one who follows extreme metal that there are still acts out there today who take the best of both worlds and continue to brew up a wicked musical stew. One act who is, thankfully, finally returning to the forefront of this blackened death metal landscape is Norway’s Sulphur, with their new album, Omens of Doom, in hand.
On the cold and frostbitten surface Sulphur would appear to pull first and foremost from the black metal realm. It would seem to make sense when you have a band made up of guys who have also performed with the likes of Gorgoroth, Enslaved, Aeturnus and other critically acclaimed acts of the genre. Tracks like “Gathering Storms” and “Plague and Pestilence” seethe everything grim and ‘kvlt’ with the former being a full on blasting assault and the latter laying down comfortably in the more atmospheric black metal realm. Meanwhile, “The Devil’s Pyre” chugs and pounds forward like a gauntlet-wearing army marching to eternal battle. But somewhere lying underneath the surface of this album, bubbling like an unknown beast in the swampy depths lies a certain death metal aesthetic that some of the earliest progenitors of the genre possessed. While it’s not the hammer-smashed-face bludgeoning the genre is famous for there is still a tangible nod to the days when death and black metal had the same ancestors.
Sulphur don’t stop with just the blackened death metal floor plan and call it a day though. This is an act that has never been afraid to take their sound on the occasional strange trip. Whether it’s the soaring, traditional metal guitar solo tucked into the sonic blizzard that is the aforementioned “Gathering Storms” or the weird and wild post-metal bits woven throughout the track “Alt Svartner” it’s clear that Sulphur’s musical influences traverse a wide range of sounds and styles. It would be easy for this band, after yet another self-imposed hiatus, to rest on their laurels and return with an album that simply used the same brushes to paint by numbers like some other acts choose to do. Instead, Sulphur refuse to play it safe and take both broad, unique strokes and intersperse so many fine details throughout the organized chaos.
Omens of Doom is out now via the Dark Essence imprint. You can experience and purchase the album through the Sulphur Bandcamp page.