Review: “Alchemia Prophetica” by Sulphur and Mercury

Born in the Cerverteri Necropolis under the blood moon of the Italian summer solstice from a love of classic Heavy Metal and Doom, Sulphur and Mercury forge haunted dirges of occultic sound from the fires of our glorious past, channelling the spirit of 1987 in the process. That year was a pivotal one for both vocalist Jason Netherton (Misery Index, Asphalt Graves, Dying Fetus) and guitarist Francesco Conte (Spiritual Front, Nero Omega, Klimt 1918) in terms of their metal edification, the duo joined by bassist Marco Mastrobuono (Hour Of Penance, Inno, Buffalo Grillz) and drummer Dario Casabona (Griefbringer, Schizo, Sinoath) to complete the group. Mixed by Ola Ersfjord (Dead Lord, Northtale, Tribulation) having been recorded in Rome and Helsinki, the bands debut EP “Alchemia Prophetica” finds the quartet citing influences in Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost and Sabbat

A supergroup that worship the sounds of the 1980’s occult metal scene might not be anything new but what makes Sulphur and Mercury an intriguing proposition is the diversity of prior convictions these musicians have. Will they be true to the genre which they proclaim as their own or will they deviate with nuance and artistic freedom? Introduction piece “Presagio del Maligno” offers no insight into the journey which the band wish to take us on with guest keyboardist Freddy Delirio providing a John Carpenter movie inspired moment of atmosphere to clear the mind. Instead its first track proper “Invoke the Adversary” which lights the way. Netherton barks the lyrics as if fronting a Death Metal band, alternating between a pair of evil voices while Conte then delivers riffs fit for worship that fall somewhere between Sludge, Stoner and Doom in orientation. A powerful statement piece, this one should win over anyone who had mental images of high pitched shrill warbling, for there is none. There is an air of familiarity in the riff department when it comes to “Lightless Slumber” and if it wasn’t for the harsh vocals that would make for a cut that could happily sit on any 80’s Metal record. Galloping drums from Casabona and searing lead moments all add to what is a quintessential classic Traditional Metal sound, the synth layer giving it real depth and texture. The vocals are what set the band apart, giving them a greater cutting edge and it makes all the difference.

The opening strains of “Venereal Levitation” paint the mental picture of the cover art for “Tempo of the Damned” by Exodus, the keys from Delirio sounding like on organ before the riffs begin to fly. Sinister and menacing with a classy short solo, this one finds Netherton pushing his story telling capabilities to their limits as the virgin sacrifice levitates above the alter of madness. A rich sense of the occult is held within the lyrics of these songs and despite some of the themes being familiar, here they sound fresh like a low budget cult horror film remake that has been done well – and we all know how rare that can be. Faster, heavier and with a bouncy bass line from Mastrobuono, “Entombed in Necrodust” is one of the strongest cuts and one which a band like Frozen Soul could easily cover. A couple of hitherto unheard gravely lows from Netherton and some glorious lead riffs make all the difference to this piece of ethereal darkness, that aggressive edge elevating it to another realm of existence. A cover of demo-era anthem “Heads Will Roll” by Satan brings the bloodstained curtain down on this crime scene, the leads howling like a banshee’s call on the plague winds during an opening half that bleeds flamboyance. A melodic bridge is well worked before the flying extended solo finishes the record on a high. In all honesty this isn’t a record that you want to end because for all it’s weight of nostalgia, it’s got a real life of its own… [8.5/10]

Track Listing

1. Presagio del Maligno (Introduzione)
2. Invoke the Adversary (Pugnali di Megiddo)
3. Lightless Slumber
4. Venereal Levitation (Voci dall’aria)
5. Entombed in Necrodust
6. Heads Will Roll (Satan cover)

Alchemia Prophetica” by Sulphur and Mercury is out 12th April 2024 via Time To Kill Records and is available over at bandcamp

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