Friday, June 21, 2013

Azaxul


Azaxul - The Fleshly Tomb
Misanthrophia Discos, 2016
Genre: Black Metal

1. Shrouded with Death
2. Bloodspell
3. 30 Pieces of Silver
4. The Sepulchral Whore
5. The Fleshly Tomb
6. Into Frozen Forests
7. Cryptborn Shadows
8. Under the Banner of Hate
9. Salem's Children
10. Negrologue in Death-Dur






When the re-releases of Moonblood started coming out I think everyone was fairly surprised about this. I was also surprised and pleased to see Azaxul's "Horned Furies" get a proper release this time! What I wasn't expecting from any of this was new music, but here we are with a new Azaxul album and it actually came out quite good.

"The Fleshly Tomb" marches along with the improvements found on "Horned Furies". Gaamalzagoth has gotten well enough at performing guitar that it doesn't feel awkward like in the early demos. There are still moments that "feel" a little off, but sometimes that's part of the feature of this raw minimalist style of Black Metal. Usually people aren't looking for perfection with this type of material, I'm certainly not. While "The Fleshly Tomb" is certainly a step up in production quality and I would even dare say it's not all that "raw", but what it does have is well composed songs. If you really enjoy this kind of Black Metal then Azaxul's new album is probably one of the best this year. It's overly simplistic, but that's part of the point. Azaxul manages to do more than most with the bare minimum and that's a challenging feature to pull off.

One of the real treats with this album is that if you missed the sound of Moonblood, aspects of it are alive and well in halls of Azaxul. You may even recognize "Into the Frozen Forests" and "Under the Banner of Hate", because these were originally by Moonblood, but previously only available on rehearsal tapes. I'm truly glad that this style is not gone from the world and that Gaamalzagoth is continuing to record music, it's been a real pleasure having him active in the realms of music again. I really hope he continues to work on more music and we have more Azaxul albums in the future!

(Sorry to use Gaamalzagoth, but it's hard to distinguish when talking about the band or when talking about the musician!)

Azaxul - Horned Furies (Re-release)
Misanthrophia Discos, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

1. Night Tale
2. Golgotha's Legacy
3. Branded with the Goatsign
4. Dance of Horned Furies
And Heaven is Crying Tears of Fire:
5. Part I: The Prophecy
6. Part II: The Arrival
7. Part III: I am Eternal








Along with a lot of Moonblood releases in this series Gaamalzagoth decided to return to the last Azaxul recording and give it the same treatment. Here we have a full booklet and pro-pressed CD. The booklet is on part with the Moonblood re-releases as well and is really nice. Far better than the CDr demo-ish release back in 2010.

The music is entirely remastered and this version features "Night Tale" which was previously only available on the 7" split with S.V.E.S.T. It makes sense for it to show up first, since it is the earlier recording and a bit more primitive than the actual "Horned Furies" album. Everything sounds quite a bit better compared to the original release. So, if you've been picking up the re-releases of all that wonderful Moonblood material, you really should consider adding this to your list as well. This really signifies the end of releases for material related to Gaamalzagoth sadly. He's mentioned to me that it is very unlikely that there will ever be new Azaxul material at this point. I am just glad he brought all that Moonblood material and this Azaxul material back into light with the remastering treatment it received.

Azaxul - Horned Furies
Misanthrophia Discos, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Golgotha's Legacy
2. Branded with the Goatsign
3. Dance of Horned Furies
And Heaven is Crying Tears of Fire:
4. Part I: The Prophecy
5. Part II: The Arrival
6. Part III: I am Eternal








This isn't current Azaxul material, unfortunately, and I don't know if the release of "Horned Furies" signals the resurrection of the project. "Horned Furies" is material originally recorded back in 2001 and 2003. I think the "And Heaven is Crying Tears of Fire" was supposed to be its own demo released by Chanteloup Creations, but the label went under before that could happen. Luckily this has been resurrected from the archives and released in 2010 under Gaamalzagoth's own label. This comes as a pro-printed cardboard sleeve with CDr and is limited to an undisclosed amount, Despite not knowing the limitation the CDr is still hand-numbered and I own #163.

"Horned Furies" is a huge improvement on the prior Azaxul material. If I had to guess the first three tracks are the more current, 2003 material and the last series of "And Heaven is Crying Tears of Fire" is the earlier 2001 material. The writing and performance on the first three tracks is much better and far more mature, whereas the the last sequence is far more primitive, which matches more with prior Azaxul writing. If this is the case, then its quite a shame that this project has been put to rest, because Gaamalzagoth realy got quite good at performing and writing with guitar in that time span between recordings. Everything still maintains that Moonblood feel and rawness, but the first three songs have an added layer of complexity and there are even moments where a second lead guitar starts to voice its presence over the usual saw-like guitar style. Gaamalzagoth's vocals are excellent, as usual, and the drumming has improved drastically from what I remember in the earlier releases. Its a far more interesting listen and even moreso on the earlier tracks. "Horned Furies" really captures that cold Black Metal style present throughout the 90's and if there's one Azaxul album to get, this would be it. Its shame a full-press wasn't made, because the material is fairly well done in the grand scheme of things.

The fact this came out in 2010 makes me hope that the project may have new material waiting in the wings. If Gaamalzagoth's writing improved that much simply between 2001 and 2003, then I imagine that he's only gotten better over the long years... well provided he spent time working on playing guitar in that time frame. You can lose a lot of ability if you don't keep up once in a while... but hopefully his passion for Black Metal has never left and he is merely sitting on a lot of material waiting to be released for us to hear.



Azaxul & S.V.E.S.T. Split
Sombre Records, 2002
Genre: Black Metal

Azaxul:
1. Night Tale
S.V.E.S.T.:
2. Death to Macrocosm












Side S.V.E.S.T.: ...coming eventually...
Side Azaxul

Gaamalzagoth has been pretty silent with respect to the world of Azaxul.  Apparently there was a bit of a mishap with a second demo of the project.  It was to be released in around 2000 through Chanteloup Creations, but the label went under before it could be pressed.  Maybe someday that material will see the light of day... but it has been sitting in vaults for many years now, so it doesn't look like it will ever truly exist. So that brings us to this split with the great French group S.V.E.S.T. released through the legendary Sombre Records and limited to 500 copies. Unfortunately it comes on the heals of Moonblood being disolved as a project and what makes matters worse is this appears to be the last release from Azaxul.  I don't know if he's lost interest in the project, but the project has been very silent as of late.

The production values have increased dramatically, which is to be expected.  There may have been more of an evolution if we were able to hear the tape in between, but for this track we get jumped right into far superior production.  The song writing has also gotten a lot better as well.  Azaxul has turned into a vicious and hateful sounding Black Metal band and, unsurprisingly, bears a little bit of a resemblance to Moonblood.  I feel like the music is a lot more frenetic in presentation, when compared to Moonblood, and it still has that raw edge that you would expect from these projects.  The only thing I didn't like that much was something I'm hearing in the guitar.  I'm not sure if it has to do with his guitar playing or not, but it sounds like he's not holding down the strings on the fret enough and some artificial harmonic sounds are coming through.  That or he's holding down the string over the actual fret... Either way, it shows up in some of the riffs and is somewhat distracting.  The drums on this recording sound quite good though and he pulled in M.K., who was playing for Katharsis at the time.  When I first heard it, I thought Occulta Mors was playing behind the kit since it sounded quite similar to how he usually plays.

All in all I am pleased to see the project improve over time.  I would have been interested to see where this project would go in the future given Gaamalzagoth's clear improvement with playing guitar and writing songs. If you enjoyed what Moonblood was doing in the earlier days, you may find some aspects of this reminiscent of that sound, minus the Medieval touch.  Azaxul plays fast and straight forward Black Metal, so if you want a sound that heralds back to the early days of the genre, Azaxul does a great job of keeping that feel alive.


Azaxul - The Arrival of the Demonlord
Chanteloup Creations, 1997
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Arrival of the Demonlord
2. Shroud of an Angel
3. Behemoth's Rising













Despite having a very productive year with Moonblood, Gaamalzagoth started his own solo project called Azaxul.  I guess he felt the dark forces were spurring him on to generate even more music in this evil genre.  While his vocal work suits Moonblood fine, his guitar work is not nearly as prolific as Occulta Mors.  Not that he has to be and I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that Azaxul is just harsh and grim Black Metal.  Still the riffs aren't always captivating.  Actually almost none of them are and I found this demo to be a little lackluster.  I imagine his name got him immediate interest from the might Chanteloup Creations and they happily released this and limited it to 200 copies.  This is the second release they've put out, so that label had a lot of growing to do, but they would eventually command fairly legendary status.

Azaxul basically saws away at the guitars while playing a single drum beat for the entire demo.  The production is absolutely atrocious and is about on level with some the more terrible Moonblood rehearsals.  Even though this is ultra raw and traditional Black Metal, the ideas just aren't there.  This music doesn't feel compelling, which is something that should come through at least a little bit regardless of the production.  "Behemoth's Rising" has a somewhat promising intro riff, but then it builds into more of the same Azaxul sound from the other two songs.

Maybe I am being somewhat unduly harsh.  This could be Gaamalzagoth's first foray into composing music, so it comes across as being a rather amateur attempt.  One certainly can't expect to compose masterpieces overnight. In the end I am forced to conclude this is worth skipping for my readers.  The formation of quality Black Metal just isn't there yet with this project.


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