The German Death Metal scene has gotten a lot stronger over the last couple of years and gave birth to several hordes that could easily compete with international standards. One of those bands certainly is SULPHUR AEON from the North Rhine-Westphalia area, who started out in 2010 and only released one demo ("Sulphur Psalms" in 2010) and an EP ("Deep Deep Down They Sleep" in 2012) before they recently issued their amazing debut full length "Swallowed By The Ocean’s Tide" (2013), which got a lot of justified praise almost everywhere. So, time for us to hook up with the band’s guitarist / bassplayer "T" for some more in-depth information…
Hello guys! First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer this interview. How is everything up there? Anything new in the SULPHUR AEON camp?
"Hi Alfonso, everything’s fine in the SULPHUR AEON camp. Diligently rehearsing for our upcoming gig and working hard on the new album."
Now onto the usual stuff. Reading about your band, I noticed both, Torsten and Daniel, play in DECEMBER FLOWER. How did you guys and Martin meet? And when was it decided that SULPHUR AEON would become a band instead of a side project? Also, I noticed that you have used Sascha, Andreas and Marcel as live musicians. They are all connected to DECEMBER FLOWER and IN COLD ETERNITY as well. I am assuming all you guys share a good friendship or at least a rehearsal space, right?
"SULPHUR AEON was founded by myself. It was not meant to be a project nor was it meant to be a "real" band. I wanted to do something that comes completely from myself, a kind of act of release without any form of compromise. After finishing the songs for the demotape M., a longtime friend of mine, was my first choice as a vocalist and luckily he could identify with what I wrote and recorded there. So that was how he came into the band. For the 7" we definitely wanted real drums. D. was first and natural choice because I knew he liked the material and I was also sure that he could play it. So with D. joining the band, the line-up was complete for we have decided to stay a three-piece in order to avoid discussions about songwriting. It might sound selfish, but I just don’t want to make any compromises any more. I’ve had that far too often in the past and I’d like to avoid it in the future. In the beginning, it was never planned to perform live but after we released the 7" voices grew louder that demanded stage appearance. With the release of the album we decided to give it a try and it worked out great. Therefore we had the help of Marcel and Sascha. We divide it, there is the live line-up which is a complete band, and then there is the core line-up for the creative process. Marcel was a natural choice for me since we’ve been long time friends and also played together in the past, whereas Sascha was introduced to us by Simon, our sound engineer. Marcel became far too busy with his own projects and decided to quit the job. Luckily we found adequate replacement in Andi who does a brillant job, for it’s not that easy to replace Marcel as a guitarist and to learn a whole set in just about a month. And yes, DECEMBER FLOWER and SULPHUR AEON rehearse in the same room."
What is the "Sulphur Aeon"? An endless period where time and space will eventually collapse? Or is it a medium to express your vision on ancient darkness?
"In a way it’s both. Literally spoken the aeon of sulphur is the age of absolute devastation. On the other hand it is the possibility of unleashing my musical visions upon the willing listener."
How many gigs have you played so far? What can be expected from your live shows?
"So far there were 3 gigs which all turned out really great and yet there is only one show confirmed for this years edition of Hell Over Hammaburg. Of course we had quite some offers, but we’ve decided to choose our live rituals very carefully. We want to keep SULPHUR AEON gigs something special and we simply have to like the circumstances of the show. Location, other bands etc."
How do you guys approach songwriting? Is the writing process a single member’s work or do you all contribute in one way or another?
"As I mentioned above, I write all the music by myself and I want to keep it that way. The way of songwriting has always been the same since the beginning. I just start with one riff that really hooks me up and upon that riff, I start building up the song. But when it comes to vocal lines and drum patterns I only make suggestions here and there but in the end it’s up to M. and D. to add their personal note to the songs."
Sincerely, I haven’t heard about you guys until I read a review off "Swallowed By The Ocean’s Tide". I went to your bandcamp and I was blown away by your demo and EP. Now, this was my case specifically. I really don’t know why I haven’t heard about your band before. How well were your demo tape and your EP received in the underground? Did you do a lot of promotion for both of them or did you just put them out there for people to find out on their own?
"Before the release of "Swallowed…" there hasn’t been any real promotion. I think there was only an Imperium Productions newsletter and that’s pretty much it. We’ve never sent any tapes for review purposes but nevertheless it became demo of the month in the April issue of the German Rock Hard magazine because Götz bought one from Imperium Productions and seemed to like it. We’ve never aimed high or tried to become popular in any form. For us it’s all about the possibility of releasing our music the way we want it to be released. Neither the demotape, nor the 7" have really caught the attention of the underground or the press. But shortly before "Swallowed…" came out the interest in SULPHUR AEON started to grow faster and when it came out, the reactions where quite overwhelming for us. We’ve never expected that to happen and we feel lucky to have achieved that in such a short amount of time without kissing anybody’s asses."
"Swallowed By The Ocean’s Tide" is one hell of an album. The HP Lovecraft theme is a trademark for the band and this time I found that your take on it was better and, may I say, more complex. The cover, the lyrics even the music evokes the detailed, engulfing horror that Lovecraft used in his writings. It’s just fantastic how lyrics, visuals, vocals and music intertwine and complement each other. Did you start the band with all that in mind or was it natural evolution towards your identity?
"When I wrote the lyrics for the demo, it was not intended. M. wrote some lyrics for one song on the demo which were kind of Lovecraft inspired. When he wrote the lyrics for the 7" he completely went Lovecraftian which for us turned out to be the perfect concept, turning SULPHUR AEON into what it is now. We look upon it as a unity, musically, lyrically and visually. I’d say we became more self-confident in what we do. For me, the demo was kind of an experiment about what would arise when I compose without any limitations. With the 7" and the album I really found my way of musical expression. So it was a natural evolution."
I saw your album made the "Top 10" lists in a lot of Metal websites and dedicated magazines around the world. Were you expecting that reaction from the underground?
"Who can expect that? We knew for sure that we’ve made a good album, because we’ve managed to realize exactly what we had in mind. But hell we couldn’t know that the response would turn out to be THAT amazing."
Coming back to your album, I think the cover fits the music perfectly. Whose work was it and did you have that concept singled out since the genesis of the album or did you ask different artists to work on it, so you could pick one?
"The album cover was masterly executed by Ola Larsson who was my first choice since I loved the works he did before, for example the DISMA cover for "Towards The Megalith". And man was I happy when Ola agreed to do the artwork. The idea for the artwork was spawned by M’s twisted mind. Together we have worked out a detailed description of what has to be shown, but we left it to Ola to add his own ideas, too. We were already happy with the first rough sketches, haha, but when we saw the final artwork, our jaws dropped right to the floor. You can see a great breakdown of his working process on his official facebook page. Quite interesting and really worth checking out."
I think Germany has spawned great Death Metal bands in the last 5 years, including SULPHUR AEON. How do you see your country’s and your local scenes nowadays? Has something changed in recent years that triggered this Death Metal momentum, so to speak?
"Of course the German Death Metal scene has become really vital during the last years and brought forth some really amazing bands. I don’t have a "real" opinion about it. There is stuff I like, there is stuff I don’t like. For me it’s far more exciting to see the world’s Black / Death Metal scene spewing out so many jewels. For M and me it’s still thrilling to find new bands. We spend nights having beers and checking out new bands, or bands that are new to us. Collecting vinyl, ordering shirts. We love that. I don’t really know what it was exactly that triggered the growth of the scene, but I highly appreciate that more and more bands focus on atmospheric and natural sound and not try to compete about instrumental skills. The negative side effect is, that there are simply far too many bands out there lacking identity. But man, it’s a nice challenge to cherry-pick the great stuff out of today’s Black / Death Metal underground."
Now, regarding your influences, do you base your approach to music and lyrics solely on the 80s and 90s Death Metal classics and H.P. Lovecraft? Or do you mix them with your past experiences and readings? I assume you’ll keep the line of work you’ve had so far, or are you planning to evolve into something else?
"Of course we are deeply rooted in 80s and especially early 90s Death Metal, but (early) Black Metal is of equal importance for us. On the other hand we do not want to limit our music in any form to that oldschool background. Musically there won’t be any drastic changes or weird experiments but we won’t record "Swallowed…" part 2. It’s more like our sound is still evolving. The only thing that really matters, is that the three of us can identify with it. The concept will remain solely based on Lovecraft. I think we’ve found our little niche and we’ll keep on trying to master it."
The global scene has become more aware of bands and releases out there. The internet brought everything together and now it is really easy to listen to new music or get in touch with people. Something that usually took months back in the day. In your opinion, has there been drastic changes in the underground? Is the "spirit" still there? Or do you think nowadays, since "everybody is doing it", one can just record stuff and put it out there just for the sake of it?
"You’ve already said it, it’s much easier to find new stuff and also much easier to find the obscure old stuff. The spirit is still there somehow, but the magic about really waiting for an album, visiting your local record dealer on a daily basis, finally holding it in hands and keep playing that thing over and over again, is somehow lost. In the past you could really celebrate one album, whereas now you’ve got like… to check out 10 albums in the same amount of time. The problem is, that because of the permanent availability of music via the internet, it has somehow lost a part of its relevance. It’s a kind of an overkill and there are shitloads of albums out there, which don’t get the attention they possibly deserve. There are always two sides of a coin. So I don’t praise it but I also don’t condemn it. I think I would miss something when the internet would collapse today on the other hand it would give me the chance or time to dive deeper into certain albums. To end this: we’re glad that we’ve experienced the old days in the (early) nineties, but we also don’t want to miss the luxury of these days somehow."
So far, are you working on new songs? Is there a deadline for you to have your next album ready? Or maybe an EP? What can we expect from your next work? Will there be nuances or totally different sounds this time?
"Sure we are! I started songwriting shortly before the release of "Swallowed…", thus by now 80% of the album have been written. Most of the music is complete, now we will focus on the lyrical themes and how to bring together the album as a whole. This includes the search and composition of interludes, samples and keyboards and the chronological order of the songs. It’s not like we are changing styles, but I think it’s definitely more than nuances that will change. It’s simply the next step in the natural evolution of the sound for SULPHUR AEON. If you dig "Swallowed…" you won’t be disappointed by the next album. It will again be massive, fast, melodic, brutal, atmospheric and dark as a murky cave on the ocean floor. We didn’t have any deadline, but as the songwriting went faster than expected, we are aiming for a release at the end of 2014, so we will start recording during the summer, I think. Nothing else but the album is planned so far."
Well, I think that was it for this interview. Again, I thank you guys for your time and patience. The last space here is yours. Feel free to use it at will. Cheers!
"We simply want to thank all those who supported us so far and made all this possible. Thank you for the interview and the interest in SULPHUR AEON. Cheerz!"
Interview: Alfonso Perez