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Azaghal: Nemesis

Nemesis is the ninth studio album from the Finnish black metal bunch of blasphemous bastards Azaghal (named after a Lord of Belegost, one of Tolkien's noble dwarves). For all of their previous releases, this band has strayed true to the aesthetic of black metal, and Nemesis is no different. However, rather than letting the form dictate the music, for Azaghal it's the music contained within that defines its deformity. Dissonant and raging agony colludes with the tremolo-picked riffs that collide with ruthless and relentless blast-beats in seemingly unending repetition that rapidly escalate into subterranean depths of impenetrable horror.

Of particular note is the production as it is very good; in fact it's considerably better than most black metal out there that purposely or otherwise, goes for that lo-fi production value. And because of the production, being able to hear what's going on means the album has much more impact: the drums – usually reduced to a tinny echo emanating from a cardboard box with particularly good soundproofing – have the kind of presence that both bluntly bludgeons and sharpens the atramental aesthetic; the guitars burn intensely; and the reverb-drenched vocals are piercing.

'De Masticatione Mortuorum' opens poisoned proceedings with a fierce melodic guitar line that opens the floodgates for fifty three minutes of bile. 'Pohjoisen Valkoinen Kuolema' quickly follows in the same vein with its half-time passages and the reverberating lead work around the mid-point shifting the dynamic into more enchanting domains. 'Vihasta Ja Veritöistä' briefly slows the pace down for a dirge-laced introduction infused with melancholic melodies that bleed into more ravaging delight. With its call for Satan to "live through me", 'Hail the Whore' shifts the dynamic again. Still fierce, the up-tempo rage of this track moves somehow slower, harder, until the clean mid-passage where the bass brings in a smooth melody to introduce the tormented coda laden with nuanced drum-work and more melodic guitar lines and impressive lead work.

Up to here, the tracks have been impressive though standard black metal in structure and execution, but the hauntingly hollow and atmospheric opening of the sprawling drudgery that is 'Ex Nihilo' marks a significant shift in both song-craft and musicianship. This is where the depths of the album truly begin. From 'In Deathlike Silence' through to 'Satanic Devotion', Azaghal bring to light what it is that has allowed them to sustain their might since 1995. Aside from the rock rhythm of 'Black Legions of Satan' – a trait that somehow doesn't quite achieve what it was perhaps meant to – the remaining tracks introduce a few surprise elements. The heavily melodic title track has an astounding clean harmony vocal passage with hints of folk in the melody midway through and some particularly impressive metal riffs and lead work in the latter half of the track. The textures of 'The Pit of Shoggoths' is tangible, razor sharp, the track sprawling with infectious melodies and diseased darkness that spills over into the wrathful 'Satanic Devotion', the final declaration of Azaghal's staunch dedication to being "Reborn in Sin".

Fierce and brutal, it's the combination of the melodic with the melancholic and the maddened that gives Depths its edge over much of the rancid river that runs through the underground. Where the first half of the album is the most "black metal" part of the album – though still exceptional – it's the outstanding elements found in the latter half that make Depths truly standout. As exceptional as Depths is, had the whole album been up to this standard I shudder to think what Azaghal would have achieved.

Track Listing:

  1. De Masticatione Mortuorum
  2. Pohjoisen Valkoinen Kuolema
  3. Vihasta Ja Veritöistä
  4. Hail The Whore
  5. Ex Nihilo
  6. The Baying Of The Dead
  7. Nemesis
  8. Black Legions Of Satan
  9. The Pit Of Shoggoths
  10. Satanic Devotion

Added: January 22nd 2012
Reviewer: Jason Guest
Related Link: Azaghal on Facebook
Hits: 5406
Language: english

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Azaghal: Nemesis
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-01-22 21:33:24
My Score:

Finnish black metal group Azaghal has a reputation for consistently churning out dark, evil, and Satanic masterworks heavily inspired by the pioneers of the genre's second wave, and Nemesis is no exception. Although the album sports a cleaner production and tighter musicianship than many of the lo-fi black metal dungeon recordings of the early nineties', Azaghal demonstrates that they have a very deep understanding of how to effectively convey dark atmospheres and frightening imagery through a musical context. Nemesis is a complex and mightily impressive album, and while it doesn't quite offer enough new ideas to be regarded as an essential work, it's worth a listen for black metal enthusiasts.

The biggest influences I can hear in Azaghal's music are Mayhem and Darkthrone, but these lads are a bit more intricate from a compositional standpoint. Although the first half or so of the album tends to stick to the tried and true black metal formula, the second half is actually a bit more experimental and melodic. While calling Nemesis a melodic black metal album would be horribly wrong, the precise riff structures, touches of melody, and even occasional use of clean vocals assure the listener that Azaghal has a bit more to offer than your average Mayhem rip-off. The title track, which includes generous helpings of fast-paced riffage matched with twisted melodies, especially showcases the band at their most creative and compelling. The songs are generally powerful, dark, and sinister, with the band's tight musicianship preventing monotony from ever setting in, even if the music is quite hypnotic in nature. Although the lyrics do occasionally come across as goofy and cliched (I'm looking at you, "Black Legions of Satan"), the music is strong enough to look past this minor flaw.

Nemesis may not offer too many new ideas for experienced black metal veterans, but the compositions are strong enough to warrant a purchase for those who consider themselves a fan of the genre regardless. While I wouldn't quite call this an excellent album, it's a very solid effort from Azaghal, and a great way to help kick off black metal in 2012. 3.5 stars are well-deserved, and I look forward to more thoroughly investigating this band's discography in the near future.

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