Without a doubt, Urgehal‘s final release, Aeons in Sodom, has to be the toughest review I’ve yet written. It’s not difficult because it sucks or lacks anything worth writing about; rather, it’s difficult because of the strong personal and emotional attachment I have to Urgehal. I am a fanboy, in the truest sense of the word. What makes it worse is that Aeons of Sodom should have never happened. After the unexpected death of founder/vocalist/guitarist Trondr Nefas in 2012, I was left crushed and unwilling to accept that I would never again hear a new Urgehal album. Then rumors began circulating that, before his death, Nefas had recorded material for a follow-up to 2009’s Ikonoklast. More rumors circulated suggesting that his fellow bandmates, Enzifer and Uruz, planned to work around Nefas’ existing guitar licks and solo work to finish the album—much like what Voivod did with Katorz. The only thing Negas did not leave behind were vocals. With no recorded vocals to splice into Aeons of Sodom, the band had no choice but to turn to Nefas’ loyal friends and former bandmates to fill in the gaps. So, with no further ado, I bring you the final Urgehal album, Aeons of Sodom.
Back from the dead, “Dødsrite” opens Aeons of Sodom with a short live-performance introduction, giving the listener a final chance to hear Nefas’ voice proclaim “we are Urgehal and we are here to fucking destroy you!” Following this introduction, “The Iron Children” kicks up a storm with a mix of classic black-metal riffage and black ‘n’ roll. This track is filled with razor-sharp stop-and-start precision, crushing drum work, and our first guest on the album. Like a match made in heaven, the band’s choice for vocalist on this Darkthrone-ish ditty is none other than Nocturno Culto himself. Overflowing with blackened passion, Culto’s delivery has just a shitload of spit and venom (even more so than recent Darkthrone releases). Other perfect matches would have to be “Lord of Horns” and “Endetid;” the former fronted by Mannevond (Koldbrann, NettleCarrier) and the latter by Nattefrost (Nattefrost, Carpathian Forest). “Lord of Horns” is massive, destroying everything in its path with blistering-fast riffs and concussive blast beats. However, Uruz’s drum kit truly fears annihilation during the apocalyptic assaults of “Endetid.” Nattefrost’s voice perfectly suits the crushing black-metal assault and, while the song turns melodic, his voice meshes well with the mood; delivering hypnotizing screams that drag you deeper into the darkness.
Other noteworthy contributions come from Shining‘s Niklas Kvarforth, Taake‘s Hoest, and Tsjuder‘s Nag. “Norwegian Blood and Crystal Lakes” takes on a mid-paced plod that fits Kvarforth’s voice perfectly, allowing him to do what he does best: lunging his voice at the listener and setting a nasty mood with alternating rasps and pain-induced croons. “The Sulphur Black Haze” is a straightforward black-metal bruiser with every bit as good a vocal performance as you would expect from Hoest. The song is a mixed bag of fast and slow, but Hoest does a fine job of reining in the chaos. Nag, on the other hand, takes the listener through mounting anxiety, building choruses, and horrifying uneasiness in “Psychedelic Evil;” administering everything from phlegm-hacking snarls to the blood-curdling screams he mastered while on vacation in hell.
However, some flaws inhibit this album from automatically becoming album of the year. Both “Blood of the Legion” and “The Sulphur Black Haze” restrict the first-half of Aeons of Sodom from obtaining the momentum that the back-half possesses, and “Thy Daemon Incarnate” is, simply put, run of the mill. The last being a shame considering the contributions from Hoest, M. Sorgar (Endezzma, Bloodsworn), and Sorath Northgrove (ex-Beastcraft). Of course, these songs aren’t, by any means, shit, but they don’t pack the same punch as other tracks on the album.
Minor flaws aside, Aeons of Sodom is just wonderful. Sure, I’m biased. Sure, I’ve been waiting for a fitting closure to Urgehal (something many bands will never obtain). And while the closing organs and keyboards of “Woe” will forever bring tears to this quasi-fake doctor’s eyes, in the end, an album must be reviewed. Unsurprisingly, I would love to give Aeons of Sodom a 5.0, but it doesn’t quite reach those levels of perfection. However, its message is powerful and the touching tribute to one of the most consistent minds in the black metal is simply heart-wrenching. My writing may suggest a higher score than the one shown below, but competing with the unfuckwithable nature of Massive Terrestrial Strike and Through Thick Fog till Death is futile. To many, Aeons of Sodom will just be another well-rounded outing from Urgehal, while die-hard fans will love, cherish, and appreciate this release forever.