REVIEW: AEON – “God Ends Here”
Death metal currently faces a weird identity crisis. By itself, it has become a tired overwrought genre, filled with tropes and without much innovation. However, the bands that do innovate and adapt tropes from other genres move into sub-genres, and the “parent” death metal genre remains stagnant. Furthermore, death metal bifurcated into “old school” death metal and modern death metal, both with their own leanings, and stereotypes. However, there remain a handful of bands that adamantly stick to the most basic form of death metal. Some of them reached peak popularity with the rise of the genre itself and are serving up a product to fit the mold that generated interest decades ago. Swedish death metallers Aeon have been in the game since the mid-90s, and after a nine-year back, are back with “God Ends Here”.
“God Ends Here” is a record you’d expect from a Swedish death metal band with anti-religious themes. You have your chunky riffs with tremolo runs, you get your double bass, a few sweeping solos strewn about, and growled vocals. That’s the Aeon formula, and that’s the moveset they have stuck with on this record as well. The song titles are interchangeable with any other death metal record, the growls are B-side Corpsegrinder (from Cannibal Corpse) with bits of Akerfeldt-era Bloodbath thrown in there, yet never reaching those vocalists’ intensity or range. The guitar riffs throw late 90s-early 2000s Cannibal Corpse influences, with a dash of Morbid Angel, and Hate Eternal, without any of the standout moments. The percussive arrangements are good and rely on a CC (again) and Slayer mode of using thrashy D-beats over an over-reliance on blast beats, which by itself is refreshing if backing interesting guitar riffs. In fact, the ONLY guitar riff that I personally found enjoyable was the verse riff of “Let the Torturing Begin”, because it sounds like a direct ripoff of Decapitated’s “Spheres of Madness”.
Perhaps this is the jaded, oversaturated death metal listener in me, but there are bands out there that make Aeon sound old, boring, and tired. And “God Ends Here” isn’t going to go far to dispel those notions. The symphonic elements brought by the strings/keys are a welcome breath of fresh air in the opening moments of “The Nihilist” and “Liar’s Den” but by “Mephistopheles” these arrangements sound overly amateurish and takes away more than it adds to the overall soundscape.
Perhaps the most major yet admittedly personal grouse is the sheer number of instrumental/symphonic interludes littered about on this record. Even by the most liberal of estimates, an intro, an interlude, and an outro filler track is acceptable, but the fact that “God Ends Here” has five interlude tracks is pretty lazy. It’s even more infuriating when the album isn’t hitting breakneck intensity necessitating breather tracks. On the contrary, these lazy uninventive demos of gothic/blackened symphonies grind any momentum generated to an absolute stop before trying to restart with the following track. Moves like these immediately conjure up hasty attempts to pad out run-time without adding anything of substance to the package.
The production values on “God Ends Here” are… there. The instruments remain chunky, the bass is audible, the drums ring out, the vocals cut through, which is par for the course for modern death metal. However, the guitar rhythm tracks do get a tad messy during the busier arrangements on the record. Thankfully, with the straightforward approach to songwriting, these sections are few and far between, so we are treated to a serviceable mix through most of the experience.
“God Ends Here” is a solid slab of enjoyable but uninspired death metal. Aeon will have to tweak the formula to drum up any new fans or rejuvenate their old fanbase, and this record fails to garner veteran status.