Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kult ov Azazel/Krieg - Split CD

Kult ov Azazel/Krieg - Split CD
2001, Genocide Music

This is the fourth release for Genocide Music, and one that should prove to be something of a breakthrough for them. Everything here is an improvement on the material (not musical) quality of the last release, Maskim's 'Conquest' album, and as Genocide is run (if I'm not completely mistaken) by Septimus, the vocalist and one of the guitarists from Maskim, it's difficult to reconcile this fact with the appearance of this disc...why promote and present, in a much cleaner, better produced fashion, bands that you are not involved in rather than save the money for your own projects? And wasn't this originally supposed to appear on Blood Fire Death records? This conundrum can be solved by looking a little closer...I am sure both Kult of Azazel and Krieg paid for their own recordings or produced them by themselves, and the excellent artwork here is by a different man as well, Joshua Bowens, whose photo/paint/paper collages have begun to appear more and more popular in the underground, even though they are suspiciously similar to Riddick's. So, to look at it another way, this release is really a collaboration between a number of different individuals and talents, and it raises the finished product into a different realm than the one that came before it on the same label...it is a major leap in terms of design, presentation, and overall 'quality'...congratulations, Genocide.

Anyway, the Kult of Azazel 'Of Evil and Hatred' portion of this features older material - music that can not really be compared to what was unleashed on their debut album only a few weeks ago, even though two of the songs here also appear on that recording. This is older capturing of those frantic pieces, but really the only way the Arctic album improves on this here is in the production. This is a band whose sound has changed very little once they settled on a formula or approach they liked, and so those of you who are interested mainly in listening to earlier material to trace the evolution of bands, you can ignore this. However, this does feature three numbers not found on the later release, including a vile opening intro that sounds like a legion of demons vomiting...

I saw an ad in a death metal magazine at a newsstand yesterday where Kult of Azazel is described as 'in the vein of Venom, Mayhem, etc.', and even though I laughed at that, figuring that the person who wrote it either knows next to nothing about black metal or was trying to allude to scene sympathies this band just does not share or sponsor, it was still interesting. 'So,' I said, 'this is how death metal musicians see this band, and black metal in general.' Maybe, maybe not...but the only thing this band has in common with Mayhem, for example, is the speed of the drumming...in fact I don't hear anything Norwegian at all in this band, and the material on this disc serves to prove that point as it allows you to make out certain guitar idiosyncrasies/tone characteristics that the later production of their debut masks. In any case, this is more of the same: violent, scathing, all-out war...black metal that will not take any prisoners, like an American Marduk, and with those insane vocals that I'm sure everyone will recognize now...

And now we come to Krieg, one of the strangest of the US black metal bands, and an entity that had seen a great deal of popularity (or, at least, a small number of people shouting very loudly) with the release of their first CD, 'Rise of the Imperial Hordes'. I was introduced to that work a number of years ago, and even though I wasn't especially impressed at the time, I could see why other people were interested in it: the album was said to be raw, powerful, original (or at least appeared so at that time in the US scene), it did have a nice underproduced sound, was supposed to be very 'vocal' and 'violent', and seemed to want to strike back at the European bands that were drenching the US with barrels of reverb. Taking influence mainly (one thought) from the older American black metal bands like Profanatica, Havohej, Demoncy, Judas Iscariot, and other icons of the underground, here was a new group (two people, I think, on that recording - now reduced to just one) committed to 'true' black metal, angry at all of the borrowings other more commercial outfits were making from the scene, and intent on staying far beneath the spotlight. Fine. I think the music, on the other hand, has always been the problem for this band, while they have had attitude and anger to spare...shouldn't it be the other way around, if it's going to be anything? I've never been much of a fan of this band (or its sole 'musician', Neill Jameson, who goes by the moniker of 'Lord Imperial' - just what exactly he considers himself to be a 'lord' of I don't know) and the music that is on this CD probably won't change my mind anytime in the near future. This is basic, by the numbers, fascinatingly unoriginal black metal...and once you pierce past all the frills like the samples, effects, and 'atmospheric' additions, it is terribly, utterly boring - I actually fell asleep the first two times I tried to listen to it. Whereas some bands can use repetition in a good sense, where their themes or sense of atmosphere are enthralling enough to maintain one's attention, Jameson uses it mainly because he has so little to say. 'I want to be in a cult black metal band' is all this music says to me, over and over, to point where it becomes ridiculous - or pathetic, depending on my mood. The vocals, in particular, are very poor, or just generally embarrassing, and the melodies in the guitar music, when Neill stirs himself from his lethargy to create them, are just pointless, talentless, and absolutely devoid of any kind of dark feeling. Krieg is, and has always been, just a stale derivation of people, bands, or individual musicians who are in turn highly derivative on their own. However, because I have witnessed Neill mention, on a few occasions that I can remember, that he doesn't consider originality to be a point of importance in his music, it is not surprising that this sounds the way it does. It does continue to surprise me that people actually listen to this band, or give Krieg the time of day. There are so many better sources of dark music out there...this portion also features older material...

One good thing that you can say about Krieg is that Neill seems to be setting up these kinds of releases more often now - especially the split with Eternal Majesty, among others, which I have heard of but not yet heard...so a few bands get to drag themselves out of the underground and leave their evidence on vinyl (preferably) or disc along with the ubiquitous Krieg before either sinking back down into anonymity or launching the music further into the spotlight. This is an admirable practice, releasing all of these obscure bands to wider audiences, and I hope Jameson puts more of his resources into his label in the future instead of boring people to death with Krieg. His talents seem to lay in organizing, researching, collecting and promoting,not composing.So, to sum up, what we have here will probably be essential for those of you who consider yourselves USBM connoisseurs, or for those of you who just must have every Krieg release ever (there are going to be a lot of new recordings in the next year, I think)...as for the rest of you, I would concentrate on Kult of Azazel's new album and leave this behind. However, as I said above, this CD does feature an enhancement on the part of the label's ability to package or produce effective releases, and I hope they continue with this level of quality in the future. Wouldn't it be better to put out the work of unsigned, unknown bands, though - or another Maskim album? We'll see what time will bring...