Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kult ov Azazel - Triumph of Fire

Kult ov Azazel - Triumph of Fire
2001, Arctic Music

As far as I know, this is the first really serious melding or blending of the American death style with it's shadowed cousin, US black metal, and Kult ov Azazel, throughout this album's eleven (!) tracks, are setting down a blueprint for a new genre that I think a lot of USBM bands will be probably be following in the future. Taking some cues from the Swedish black scene, ala Dark Funeral and Marduk, the rhythmic intensity of death metal (the drummer that appears on this album, Gus Rios, must be a death metal convert - his double-bass work is just too precise to fit into the overtly simplistic machinations of most black metal skinsmen), and the amazingly, wearyingly, caustic vocal attack of earlier bands like Profanatica, Kult of Azazel, from the very beginning of the album, launch into an all-out assault on the senses from all possible angles and just never, ever let up. For the most part, this is one long blast beat all the way through...like an artillery barrage, a machine gun leveled at you and firing away until there's nothing left but pieces for the pathologist.

The drums, again, are what sets this apart from the other bands trying their hand at this kind of black metal...they remind me in a few ways of Krisiun's work in that department: blasting, little fills, a slower beat every now and then to work out the cymbals, constant double-bass, and then back to blasting...incredible...

Also, as I remarked earlier in my review of Kult ov Azazel's demo material, what really attracted me to their music was the vocal approach: the scarring, lacerating, oppressively angry outpouring of hatred...the intensity of which has only been increased on this release. Not content to just scream through the long lyrics, Xul here uses his powerful voice as another homicidal method of attacking your weak, spineless allegiance to Christ. An enormous amount of effort must have gone into the recording of the vocals on this album. Actually I think I can say with confidence that the most 'brutal' part of this recording are these groans, roars, and cries - they are just unrelenting in their monstrous, acidic savagery...after a while, a few songs, they put me into a death trance...

In terms of the guitar music, this descends, as I said above, in a fairly obvious fashion from the Swedish form of black metal, meaning: long, drawn-out, tremelo-picked melodies that cycle through a constant reiteration of theme and variation; small, shorter add-ins to these main melodies as asides, and a constant eye on providing a solid musical basis for the speed of the rhythm work. My favorite songs on this album would be where this technique is enhanced by extra harmonic back-ups, like in the third offering, 'Destruction to the Throne of God', where an extra guitar part comes in beneath the main tracks to add an extra touch of 'darkness', melodic weight, to the primary melodies of the song...also, in a track like 'Embrace the Burning' this band deviates somewhat from their musical convictions and strikes out into a few thrashing, atonal riffs, showing their death metal or grindcore influences. I would have liked to hear this band slow down every now and then and explore some of the darker textures in this material, but that's not really their area of expertise or their main stylistic approach: Kult of Azazel are sworn to battering violence, and they want to hammer you into submission...

A few words about the production on this album: if you buy this record thinking you're going to hear the necro atmosphere that most of the USBM scene swear a firm allegiance to, you'll be terribly disappointed. I was actually surprised by how clean, clear, and professional the production on 'Triumph of Fire' is...it's probably the 'best' sound a black metal band from this country has ever received - meaning that it's a death metal production job; all the instruments are loud, precise, and sparkling (the guitars are a little too clean for my taste), and the mix is excellent...listen to this on headphones and you'll be able to hear all the editing traces, the vocal panning and mixing, etc. and that will convince you of the skill of the producers/engineers on this effort. I am not bringing this up to point out something derogatory, I am just surprised that Kult of Azazel has stepped so suddenly into the limelight of 'professionalism'. Of course, because this is on a nationally-distributed label (Arctic is allied with Pavement) and shares ties to the death metal scene (it was produced by Malevolent Creation's Phil Fasciana), one would think that a little extra attention would be paid to the actual sound of this recording, and it looks like money has been thrown behind this band...interesting, isn't it? This is another reason to seek out this record: listen to what it sounds like when USBM is taken seriously, and people line up behind it...

In any case, 'Triumph of Fire' convinces on the merit of its sheer intensity alone, and the level of manic blasphemy swarming throughout these songs would be terrifying to anyone not aware of what is happening in the music scene in this country...for pure, Satanic fury and a vicious anti-christian level of barbaric violence, this album stands alone. If I were God, this would scare the hell out of me...