Polish extreme metallers Azarath have been around for nearly 20 years and during that time the band has released five full lengths but it is six years since “Blasphemers’ Maledictions” which had a clinical yet assailing set of songs that were firmly entrenched in the death metal but blurred at the edges with blackened touches and some truly scathing vocals. As this sixth album enters the worlds extreme metal arena I was unsure whether I actually personally liked it which then brings up the inevitable question of I might not like it but is it any good. Believe I have mulled that question in my head a lot and with the listens I’ve given it.
My first criticism of this album is the sound and production, especially the drums which are tepidly mixed despite the obvious blasting prowess of Inferno who we all know has drummed on Behemoth albums. When the opener “The Triumph Of Ascending Majesty” erupts from the speakers the result should be a detonation of sound, surrounding the drums with caustic riffs, thundering bass and acerbic vocals. Of that list the latter is formidable, true razor blade gargling shrieks and bellows but the bass is wispy, which may be deliberate to allow the guitar work to be heavily emphasised but it makes the whole production insipid overall. When “Let My Blood Become His Flesh” blasts in after the serene ending to the opener, that frailty is evident and whilst the song itself is a battering affair, similar to Marduk in places, I expected more power even when I cranked the bass up on my amp, which is not a cheap amp I can assure you. There is a mechanised brutality in the drumming, being very Krisiun like and also having a similar snare sound to Max Kolesne of Krisiun.
A superb riff starts “Annihilation (Smite All The Illusions)” before the insane blasting speed enters the assault. This is vicious stuff, don’t get me wrong, as the accelerator is firmly foot to the floor but the sterility of the drum sound renders much of the release impotent, but I am sure that when and if the songs are played live, the audience will be obliterated. There are some flaying riffs on the album, like “Parasu Blade” which is insanely fast with an intense savagery as that mechanised drum approach enables the song to be inhumanly focused with plenty of tempo shifts and changes in sonic violence. I do like the vocals on this album, they’re demonic with a frenzied hatefulness that is virulent and outright evil. As the barrage continues with “Into The Nameless Night” the blackened elements rise forcefully and are reminiscent of Behemoth as the speed of the song varies via waves of slower riffing but overall the song rockets along leading to the closing couple of tracks that begins with “Venomous Tears (Mourn Of The Unholy Mother)”. The decrease in pace is excellent and allows the song to intensify and develop the momentum in undulating layers of power and is a standout song on the album. Closing is “Death”, appropriately titled, the track continues the onslaught but favours mixing the song with a more blackened approach. The momentary pauses and fluxing pace changes are more captivating than the all-out pummelling but it is by no means a slow tune as the deft tempo switches add an eerie component that the album could have used more of.
Is this a bad album, hell no, not at all; are there, and will there be, better albums released during 2017, absolutely, and I am sure fans of the band will welcome this new album after a six year wait with maniacal glee. For me, however, the album lacks force unrelated to its speed and whether the sterility is deliberate I was hoping for so much more but hence my rating reflects the song writing and playing not the sound as a whole.
(7/10 Martin Harris)