Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Nazxul - Totem
Vampire Records, 1995
Genre: Black Metal

1. Totem
2. Watching and Withering
3. I Awaken (Amongst Them)
4. Unearthed
5. Vermis Mysteriis
6. Hatred
7. Endless Reign of Power
8. Distance Begins
9. Amidst the Flames
10 .End
11. Eternum

I remember hearing this album a long time ago, about ten years now, shortly after it was initially released.  I must’ve been around thirteen or fourteen then and I don’t know why I never took that extra step to actually purchase the album because even then I thought it was quite amazing.  Anyway, everything that is great about this album is still great to this very day.  Nazxul managed to put together a timeless work in my opinion and you can hear the influences filter down into other bands now.  For the time this was released this was probably one of the more fearsome recordings to truly behold, when I listen to it all these years later it still holds a lot of that same atmosphere it did years ago.

The first stand out point that anyone will notice on this Nazxul release is the vocal performance, for this time frame it is just so unorthodox for a Black Metal performance and truly adds to the overall mystical atmosphere from song to song.  Backovic used a lot of processing and layering, which usually I’m not very into, but he approached it from a completely different point of view in my opinion and made it work to his advantage very well.  For example if he had approached “Totem” with a more conventional vocal performance it probably wouldn’t be viewed as anything very different by Black Metal standards, except that musically it contains some sort of intangible mystical essence on most of the tracks.  Even without the layering Backovic is an interesting vocalist and that is very apparent on their demo from 1994, which had a vocal performance based mostly around whispering techniques and “Totem” is simply an extension of that approach.  Musically Nazxul isn’t overly generic or anything that drastic, but the elements in the composition are all influenced by varying aspects of metal.  However, they successfully created the necessary atmosphere to let the vocal performance thrive and really bring Nazxul into more of their own sound rather than just mimicking every other Black Metal band to grace the planet.  Nazxul also doesn’t blast through the entire album, like they sort of did on the demo, they slow it down on tracks like “Vermis Mysteriis,” at least for the first half, which even had some Death Metal overtones guitar wise on it, but only in certain sections of the song.  If you listen to “Distance Begins” Nazxul break into a sequence around the two minute mark that has some Obituary guitar overtones blended with some early Sepultura guitar elements, which can be found on “Beneath the Remains,” maybe.  However, primarily everything is Black Metal oriented, so I would hardly classify this as a cross breed by Death and Black Metal, but there are certain points where their influences tend to show through.  Furthermore, on some tracks they even have some keyboard elements here and there to really amp up the atmosphere in some sections, but it wasn’t overbearing or even used throughout the entire album.  Which I find to be great because sometimes a band will rely too heavily on a keyboard to create the atmosphere they are looking for, but Nazxul manage to create that special mystical essence seemingly out of thin air.

Now inevitably I will need to discuss the production of this album.  As most debut albums of this era go, the production isn’t exactly top notch, but it’s befitting of the atmosphere for this release.  It may take some people a few listens to make out every aspect of the songs, but I promise it is definitely worth the effort.  Some tracks sound as if they were recorded at a separate time because the production doesn’t match up with other tracks like the first three.  “Totem,” “Watching and Withering,” and “I Awaken (Amongst Them)” probably have the best sound against the rest of the album, but that doesn’t mean the other songs do not live up to their greatness, they do, it’s just production wise there is a slight difference.  However, I love the vocal production throughout the entire release, to be honest.  “Watching and Withering” especially, in my opinion, had one of the most impressive sequences on this album and not to mention most sinister sounding.

Nazxul’s concept is essentially based around the ancient occult and with the use of the word “Xul” in their name I assume it is Sumerian based.  However, unlike most bands that know nothing of the real occult, Nazxul don’t appear to make any references to the farcical occult work the “Necronomicon.”  So this, at least for me, gives them a certain degree of legitimacy.  If you look through the booklet in the “Totem” album they are no doubt highly interested in occult practices because it is laden with what appear to be ritualistic seals.  Some seals even bear cuneiform writing, furthering my assumption that this is based on the Sumerian occult.  Regardless, this denotes for me that they are not fools about the subject.  Unfortunately they only printed the lyrics for one song on here and that was for the track “Totem.”  For some reason I get the concept that it is dealing with idolatry, a heavily practiced form of worship used in ancient times and one of the major breaking points for the Judaic faith, since it is one of the Ten Commandments to not worship idols.  However, the overtones of mysticism stayed with the Jews to this very day, but only certain sectors acknowledge it.  The mystical works Nazxul, no doubt, focus on are the aspects of Demonology that are evil in nature, what Black Metal band could resist such a topic?  I think musically Nazxul present this concept very well and dare I say the best, when compared to other bands in the genre, especially at this early time.

I realize that Azaghal have tried to term their music as being Black Terror Metal, but Nazxul really went the extra mile and made their music truly terrifying.  Which, really, coupled with the impressive Black Metal atmosphere and this more unorthodox vocal approach, Nazxul truly put together something different and really incredible.  I think “Totem” even paved the way for future artists like Funeral Mist and Triumphator, albeit Arioch is the main man behind both, but he approached his work with a similar vocal attempt.  He really harnessed the method and power in Funeral Mist that Nazxul set precedence for.  Furthermore on the more recent Behemoth releases Nergal seems to be unopposed to approaching his vocal performance in a similar way of layering.  Unfortunately the only band that has ever come close to rivaling the vocal performance on “Totem” is Funeral Mist’s “Salvation,” I await the day when someone can truly recapture the essence “Totem” brought forth in an even more revolutionary way and I will be impressed if Nazxul could even recapture such a moment.  All hail the sacred Nazxul.

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