Russian progressive metal. Those three words aren't often heard
together, but Azazello is that country's leading prog metal outfit, and the
energy and the cultural spin they add to the genre is at once interesting and challenging.
By the album's name and the song titles you'd guess that Seventh Heaven
would be an English-language piece, but the lyrics, the real song titles, the
artwork are all Russian. The 4-piece band was formed in 1995, named for a
character in Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita, and they have
released 4 albums, of what they called prog-metal. But this is the first Azazello
record that is really comfortable in that genre - it is quirky, classically influenced,
and more prog than
Seventh Heaven is 7 songs spread over an hour. The first
and last tracks, called "Beginning" and "Blessing" but subtitled "Intro" and "Outro",
bookmark five 9- to 12-minute pieces. Well four, really, because
"Microcosm" and "Macrocosm" are really joined at the hip, and together they form
a 22-minute epic that form the standout track(s) on the album. Like the
rest of the album, the two "Microcosm/Macrocosm" pieces are very technical and
there's plenty of the wankery that seems to be endemic to prog-metal - and the
song structures are complex with constant changes that will keep your attention.
The use of a flute, played in an energetic, restless style, a Hammond-sound
played in aggressive staccato bursts, and a guitar and drum-tight rhythm section
that can't find a note longer than a semi-quaver drive this music with a
restless energy that some listeners will find too exhausting.
Unlike the other songs, "The Mystery" is a somewhat pedestrian-paced piece.
A simple folksy melody, focus on flute, acoustic guitar and piano work along
with the traditionally-oriented melody lend the impression that it might be a
modified Russian country folk song.
Alexander Kulak's vocals deliver the all-Russian lyrics in a clean, well
controlled mid-to-upper range, but they're more lightweight than you'd expect in
any metal genre - again supporting the contention that despite an occasional
heaviness, Azazello's style leans closer to prog than to metal.
There's a quirk about "Outro". Azazello employs an incredibly
annoying little mechanism that is becoming increasingly popular. After
about a minute and a half - i.e. the real "Outro" - there are 2 minutes of
silence, then a 6-minute 'hidden track' pops up, which is simpler and less
technical than any of the other songs, but it's also a more melodic, and a
Azazello is more technical than emotive, focusing on complex structures and
very skilled performances more than on expression or sentiment. Still,
Seventh Heaven is an interesting listen and worth the purchase. But be
advised - you'll want to lay in a stock of Red Bulls before tackling it - this
music never lets up.
1. Beginning / Intro 2:17
2. Macrocosm 12:02
3. Microcosm 10:51
4. The Mystery 8:29
5. Restless Rest 10:49
6. Seventh Heaven 8:55
7. Blessing / Outro 2:59