There is a set of adjectives unique to metal and perhaps a few other genres and occupations out there. In this set, qualities which are usually assigned negative connotations are usually used to signify something of high quality or effective: “destructive”, “depressing”, “morbid”. This hints at the different goals and aesthetics that metal usually sets for itself; misanthropy, rage, despair and death. However, there is also a discourse of controlling these goals: blindly flailing around is usually deemed as childish and pointless. Downfall of Gaia are exemplars of this demand, the demand for internalization and control. The way to approach these issues is via contemplation, subtlety and contained force; Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay can wear any of those descriptors with pride.
Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay is an album firmly grounded in two titanic legs: on the one hand, poignant black metal and on the other, juggernaut doom metal. The two opening tracks set the stage for this duality perfectly; opening track ‘Darkness Inflames These Sapphire Eyes’ is a caustic, morbid piece of black metal. Furious blast beats embed the tremolo picking with power and the vocals are emerge from a scraped throat and despairing heart. The second track, ‘Carved Into Shadows’, opens with a rolling riff with no boundaries, which feeds off the end of the previous track and echoes into feedback and overtone as if gorging itself.
Thematically slicing apart this album into three neat parts, the next trio of songs represents a middle section with qualities of its own. ‘Ascending the Throne’ is a short segue into the following tracks but its melodic and quiet guitar allows us to bring into bear one of the most prominent influences on this album and this Agalloch. In the several quiet parts that abound throughout the album, their voices echoes clearly. One of those can be found in the opening to ‘Of Stillness and Solitude’, a chilling track that sends us back to the black metal influences while not relinquishing its hold on the sludge that has already been introduced.
‘To Carry Myself to the Grave’ is honestly one of the best track released this year and that’s saying a lot. The doom gets its own space here, allowing the chords and riffs to echo out over an expense which lends this track a feeling of open spaces, bleak vistas and sorrow-tinged freedom. On the technical side, the vocals excel themselves here, beautifully complementing the hooks and riffs that live in the middle of this track. On first learning, this is the track that will etch this album on your heart and draw you back to listen to its predecessors and antecedents.
The two last tracks drive our original point home. From the middle point of the longest track on the album, ‘Whispers of Aeon’ and to the end of its last, abrasive notes in ‘Excavated’, there is only quiet. Not silence mind you for this extended outro to the album has some insanely beautiful compositions, but somber piano, feedback and post-rock like guitars are only broken in one place by abrasive vocals and harsh guitars. These tracks explain and enumerate our previous, general point; Downfall of Gaia are not here just to make noise. The music on Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay is mature, intelligent and sets out to explore its themes in an intricate and subtle way.
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Downfall of Gaia’s Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay gets…