Sulphur - Omens of DoomSulphur (or sulfur in the States) is ungodly, foul smelling shit. This isn’t exactly news to anyone but you don’t know the half of it until you have actually jousted with the likes of benzyl or ethanethiol. There aren’t many chemicals I’ve worked with that linger on your mustache and penetrate your clothes like sulfur. It’s pungent, it’s offensive, and it’s fucking nauseating. While I’ve had my fair share of encounters with sulfur, I have never encountered its black-metal equivalent—which is odd considering I’ve been a fan of Øyvind Madsen’s other project, Vulture Industries, for years. With a name like Sulphur, I had expected some unsettling, engulfing black metal to match the stomach-turning feelings I get when “sulfur” is mentioned.

Sadly, 2007’s Cursed Madness and 2009’s Thorns in Existence did very little for me. Though they borrow from such favorites as Arcturus, Dimmu Borgir, and Behemoth, the albums don’t flow well to my ears. Even though they only have two full-lengths to their name, this five-piece troupe has been active members of the Norwegian black/death metal scene for nearly two decades. And, after six long years, their third outing—Omens of Doom—is finally here. So did they pick up where Thorns in Existence left off or will this one linger in my beard like a crafty mercaptan?

Honestly, this is the first album from Sulphur that has left a lasting impression on me. For this record, the band dropped most of their early ’00s Dimmu Borgir, Arcturus, and death-oriented influences to pursue subtle melodies and the progressive characteristics of Enslaved. Replacing heavier, thrashier moments with slow-to-mid-paced emotion, the band drops as much massive groove, ’70s rock-influenced simplicity, and melody-drenched solo work into these seven songs as humanly possible. While some songs are too long and others lack inspiration, Omens of Doom still stands as the most intriguing release from the band.

“The Force of Our Fall” (as well as “Rise of the Mushroom Clouds”) builds atmospheres with gentle keys before submitting to the song’s rasp-fronted aggression. However, the drive of the song is kept at bay and the distortion is countered throughout by the boisterous clean choirs and building Borknagar-esque elements. “Gathering Storms” follows with similar determination, dragging the listener deep into its melodic midsection, gorgeous solos, and low, war-horn vocals. It took a couple spins to absorb “Gathering Storms,” but once it sank in, this became my favorite song of the album. Similarly, the title track’s lush atmospheres and groovy riffage place it on the same shelf as “Gathering Storms.”

Sulphur 2016

“The Devils Pyre” and “Rise of the Mushroom Clouds” take the structures of “Gathering Storms” to epic proportions with eight-minute runtimes, Carach Angren-like vocal arrangements, and simplistic riffage reminiscent of the progressive eras of Enslaved and Rotting Christ. These songs are completely dependent on blackened feelz, melodic interludes, powerful Watain-inspired guitar solos, and Viking-esque choruses to create the builds necessary to express themselves. However, the impact of each is watered down by the song lengths. With a little trimming, the epicness of their character could really shine. “Plague and Pestilence,” on the other hand, conveys the same message in a mere five-minute performance. It is concise and uniquely powerful in comparison to these aforementioned tracks.

In general, Omens of Doom follows a script that requires all its songs to pass through slower-paced interludes and emotion-soaked conclusions. Even the groovy riffs of “Omens of Doom,” “Gathering Storms,” and “Plague and Pestilence” eventually give way to the album’s dark emotions. This isn’t a complaint, considering that I’ve spun Omens of Doom more than any Sulphur release, but the formula becomes obvious as you proceed from track-to-track. Though the songwriting has a recipe and some of the songs are slightly inflated, the mix is about as warm as it gets for a DR7. Omens of Doom is quite compressed but it still manages to sound good. Every instrument is easily decipherable and the result has a pleasant crunch that doesn’t overpower the performances. Omens of Doom could use some trimming and a bit more diversity, but it shows a band stepping beyond its comfort zone with decent success.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Essence Records
Websites: facebook.com/SULPHURBAND
Releases Worldwide: March 11th, 2016

Share →
  • El_Cuervo

    Sometimes you gotta listen to something just because of the artwork. Such is now.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      The artist, Chorineu, did a great job. I could hang that on my wall. The more I look, the more things I find. I now see the fiery angel wings. There’s also 2 or 3 melting cookie monsters and a helmeted Schnauzer or Silky Terrier.

      • These are like metalhead versions of The Rorschach test.
        In the bottom picture I see a face reminding of both Cthulhu and the Scammer Aliens from Futurama.
        In the upper picture I see a T-rex, which reminds me of a word I learned in yesterdays Necronomicon review; herpetophiliacs.

        • defjam

          Herpetophiliac is for herpeta (ερπετά) which means creatures that crawl hence reptiles. Saurophiliac is the word for lizard (saures σαύρες) lovers. I’m Greek, not a paleontologist.

          The album cover kills it, I owe a listen to the album because of it.

          • Thanks for the clarification. Having the hots for dinosaurs would make for a lousy sex life anyway.
            Lemmy (may he RIP) must have been one hell of a herpetophiliac:
            “If you squeeze my lizard
            I’ll put my snake on you
            I’m a romantic adventure
            And I’m a reptile too”
            “love me like a reptile”

          • defjam

            or maybe the ladies he bedded were herpetophiliacs

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Or had herpes

          • Kronos

            I’m something like a paleontologist and can confirm that taxonomists constantly steal words from Greek.

          • Sharp-Blunt Boy

            Aha! Someone from Greece. Could you pop around to the Rotting Christ household and perform the Aphrodites Child incantation to summon the zombie Demis Roussos to slaughter witless souls that savaged your fine country’s cultural heritage with their abysmal rendition of the four horsemen?

            Many thanks.

            You’ll need a massive caftan for when he arrives. The beads of doom. And a nice tie dye scarf.

            Good luck!

      • Heifer Madness

        Costin Chioreanu makes my favorite album art. I’ll check this album out just based on that. Last year he did the covers for Sigh and Grave, and both ended up on my best of the year list.
        Dude has good taste.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Yep, talented guy. I like your Avatar, Heifer. What’s with all these great Avatars recently? First AngryMetalBird, now this. Maybe I should rethink mine. Something classy but still simian. Hmmm.

          • Heifer Madness

            Why thank you. I like your avatar too, and notice it in the comments often. I don’t think it needs to be replaced. A pic of Bruiser from the Bucky O’hare cartoon might work, though. He’s a particularly metal looking orange space gorilla.

  • Kalsten

    Funny enough, this review cames while I am writing my PhD thesis, which is about sulfur oxidation. Funny, huh?

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I feel for you dude… But writing means you are close!

      • Kalsten

        I hope to survive to this :P

        Btw, very nice review. I am looking forward to hear the rest of the album. Maybe not the most innovative band ever, but the song you put is of my liking :)

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Well, good luck, man. I’ve been there. It is a beast of a process but it will end soon enough.

          Yeah, this song is actually quite good.

    • Good luck – the feeling of relief and exhaustion once it’s handed in is unlike anything else…

      • Kalsten

        Thank you very much for your kind words. Sometimes it feels like an impossible task. Just one more month. Freedom awaits :)

  • Pimpolho

    ”Sulphur (or sulfur in the States) is ungodly, foul smelling shit. This isn’t exactly news to anyone ”

    I have anosmia, dude. :'(

    • As a smoker, I’ve got a reduced sense of smell. But using that as an argument against tobacco just makes me snort at’em. Who needs to smell all the sweat, exhaust, cat piss and whatnot we surround us with anyway. If it had hurt my hearing on the other hand…
      So, is living with anosmia annoying or problematic, except yo can’t comment on the bouquet of a wine or wake up and smell the coffee/flowers/napalm et al?

      • Pimpolho

        Yeah, mine is congenital, so i don’t even know what a smell is; but like you said, it’s kinda of a trade-off, so i really don’t mind it.

        • Bart the Repairman

          I suppose your sense of taste must be diminished too?
          Oh God, I just imagined how empty my life would be without heavenly flavour of crispy fried bacon…

          • Pimpolho

            I wouldn’t know. My sense of taste has been the same all my life. Maybe it is diminished, maybe it’s not, because of the, ya know, that compensation thing; i really don’t know. (I can definitely taste things though).

          • Bart the Repairman

            Yeah, I know that you can’t compare your feelings to anything – I was hoping rather for some piece of objective medical knowlegde… cuz this subject is really interesting. Thanks for the response anyway!

          • Pimpolho

            Well, sorry, i can’t really help you, but everyone says that when they have a cold, for example, they taste things differently. That’s really all i know. When i went to the doctor (not you, Grier, you click-baiter), he said something along the lines of “okey dokey, you can’t smelly” (i was really young). I still think that with stem cells or something i might be able to recover from it, but is it really worth it? Nonetheless, my medical knowledge of this doesn’t goes past it’s name: Cogenital Anosmia.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            I would have prescribed enimas.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Well, that’s a good thing in this case. But yeah, that sucks.

      • Pimpolho

        I kinda like it. For instance, if i married you, you could fart as much as you wanted. :D

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          This is true…

        • Kalsten

          You are also deaf?

          • Pimpolho

            True, true. Silent farts, miss doc, please.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Miss doc?? Now I’m confused.

  • Col_Dax

    Being a neurodermatitis plagued kid by the end of the seventies, my parents gave a four week spa therapy a try. It took place in, mmmhh, St. Peter Ording on the German sea coast. One day bathing in salty seawater (which hurt like hell), one day bathing in sulphuric water (which stank like hell) and so on. The four weeks left a lasting impression, but woefully, not on my skin condition. :-(

    So it is with the embedded song: impressive on the first pass, fun on the second – but I doubt, if I would come back for a third. Wonder, if hearing the whole album would be a game changer… Perhaps just not my style of blackened death.

    • Kronos

      Who would’ve thought such notorious irritants would hurt your skin?

      • Col_Dax

        Yes, it seems totally illogical, even without an advanced course in chemistry. But this sort of spa therapy was state of the art at this time, even in “developed” Germany.
        It luckily didn’t do lasting harm to my skin – but it didn’t do anything good, either.

    • Name’s Dalton

      So, do you still talk to your parents?

      • Col_Dax

        See above – so, no hard feelings upon my parents, just a pouch of uncomfortable memories about stinking and biting.
        Adolescence with its hormonal changes made it then half way good, at the same time beginning to grow into metal made me care less about the remaining half… :-)

  • kmal666

    thiols are pretty shitty but I’ve always found that glacial acetic acid is some truly offensive stuff. Idk maybe it’s just me.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Acetic acid has been just a constant in my work that I’m pretty use to that little guy.

  • Kronos

    Extensive experience with animals in various states of decay has made me all but impervious to bad smells (I actually don’t mind sulphur that much – better than formalin) , but there is one scent above all others that no man should ever experience: the washed up carcass of a Pacific giant chiton. That and bone dust.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Bone dust is bad?

      • Kronos

        It smells like pain.

  • Blueberry Balls

    Killer riffing. I dig, I dig.

  • Name’s Dalton

    Ok this embedded song is excellent.

  • Berit Dogg

    I wish my chemistry textbooks had read like the first paragraph of this review! Please review the rest of the periodic table… anyway, this is why I read every reveiew and almost every single comment on this site. Even if it’s a band or a genre I don’t get or care about, I’ll be enrichened by essential scientific knowledge, such as the comparative foul-smelliness of various scientific endevaours, the greek roots Lemmy’s herpeophilia and Dr Griers famous enema treatment (of skin conditions). Also, I’ve discovered a lot of great music through this site. Thank you guys.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I’ll begin working on a comparison piece on the periodic table. I’ll match every element to a band that has similar traits.

      Thanks for the kind words. Glad you’re enjoying the wordsmithing and (most of) the music.

  • sir_c

    Sulphur! Ah those evil reminders after an intense kebab-binge adjoining an evening of drinking all obtainable varieties of hefeweizen beer in the local bar… :-)

    On topic: I agree with the reviewer. Music ain’t bad but it’s a bit formulaic to my taste.