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CD Review: AEON – Rise to Dominate

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aeon risetodominateAh, death metal – the music that refuses to grow up.  While black metal is getting busy with electronics, folk music, and dark ambience, and even friggin' metalcore has tapped Swedish melodeath and power metal, death metal is madly practicing away in the corner, trying to make the next Suffocation album.  Or the last one.  Or the first one.  You get the idea.

But minus innovation, music still has composition, performance, and other qualitative aspects.  With Rise to Dominate, Sweden's Aeon add nothing new to death metal – except for a well-written, well-played, and immensely enjoyable record.

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For many, the introduction to this band came via Cannibal Corpse's Alex Webster, Aeon's #1 fan.  Try to find an interview in which he doesn't rave about the band.  Webster no doubt has heard millions of blastbeats in his time, and knows good death metal when he hears it.  And he's absolutely right – Aeon's first album, 2005's Bleeding the False, is a seething slice of nearly flawless death metal.

On Rise to Dominate, Aeon lose a little of the raw, foaming-at-the-mouth quality that made Bleeding the False so fearsome.   But they more than make up for it with catchy, direct songwriting that's devoid of fat.  Dan Swanö turns in clear, heavy mixing and mastering.  The riffs practically command you to put your hands on your knees and whip your hair 'round.  The performances are tighter than a bee's hoo-ha.  Actually, I don't think bees have hoo-ha's.  You get the idea.

What separates Aeon from the rest of the death metal pack is their sense of groove.  They can blast and twiddle their fingers when needed (the spiraling diminished arpeggios in "When the War Comes" had my classical violinist friend agape), but they don't get lost in wheedly riffing.  In fact, the riffs are often relatively simple.  Some of the tremolo-picked melodies suggest Morbid Angel; but where that band would have taken off into abstract, blasting realms, Aeon keep things brutal and heavy.  A little melody here, a pinch harmonic there – this is an exercise in minimalism gone maximal.

Sure, blasphemous, Florida-flavored death metal is hardly anything new.  But it's rare that a band takes the formula and hones it into such a gleamingly powerful shape.  Deicide themselves would be jealous of roaring refrains like "I am a living sin" and "You pray to nothing."  Every time someone plays this album, an angel may not lose his wings – but he may cower a bit.

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8/10

Aeon on MySpace
Metal Blade Records

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