Artist: Azaghal

Title: Nemesis

Type: Album

Label: Moribund Records

At what point do you eventually use a band as an influence point when making comparisons? Finland’s Azaghal has been releasing top quality black metal for over decade and this release is their ninth and has had Narqath at the heart of the band since inception. As ever line up changes are inevitable but the black heart of Azaghal’s music has remained resolutely intact. Looking back at the bands back catalogue and you soon realise that Azaghal are a fucking good black metal band (sorry for the expletive but I meant it) who steadily go about their business without ever straying too far from what they know and trust.

Anyway back to my original question about influences, I ask that question because inevitably bands like Azaghal will never really shake off who they sound like for the reason I stated earlier, preferring to rely on writing solid black metal that has a few of their own little takes which on this album are the vocals. The album poises itself for later modest experimentation by knocking out “De Masticatione Mortuorum” a caustic black thrasher that lacks any sort of finesse, unless stabbing you in the face with a rusty mace is finesse to you. After the melodious Carpathian Forest like beating of “Pohjoisen Valkoinen Kuolema” the first experimental tune arrives in the form of the epic “Vihasta Ja Veritöistä” a much slower tune that has a Katatonia like melancholia on the riff. The switching of pace during the song creates a certain degree of texture that removes the nasty virulent edge but injects copious amounts of atmosphere. As the song builds it gradually intensifies until the song is blasting fiery demonic breath. Another twist on their template is “Ex Nihilo” which has a synth start and deathly style. The addition of semi clean choral vocals was a surprise, quite whether it works or not you’ll have to decide for yourself.

“In Deathlike Silence” has an old primitive Darkthrone feel about it as again the vocals vary to add more texture to throw the listener onto another path. Listening to the riffs I couldn’t help note that I was hearing Dissection in places on this tune as the album shifts gear again on “Black Legions Of Satan”. Initially the song is slow but as the song progresses the injection of speed has a bit of Impaled Nazarene about it. The title track borders Immortal very closely with a catchy riff and beat. The clean vocals are close by as well adding to the songs flavour. One of the best tracks is “The Pit Of Shoggoths” which begins with a raucous barrage and massive vocal projection. The chopping and changing of speed eventually brings the song to a semi-acoustic break with strange vocal inflections. The song predictably, but enjoyably, returns to the build up phase which is catchy as hell in a weird black folk sense. Closing the album is “Satanic Devotion”, as close to all out warmongering black thuggery as you’ll get and is probably the fastest song on the album. There are few bands that churn out top quality black metal on a regular basis but Azaghal certainly do and this album follows on very nicely from where “Teraphim” left off.

(7.5/10 Martin Harris)