There’s nothing quite like the feel of the adrenalin surging through your body when you check out a new release. Nothing quite like the feel of every part of your being suffused with energy and light as a consequence of an almighty, pummelling riff coursing through your brain and lighting up your synapses like a thousand fireworks going off at once. It’s the thrill that the true music-junkie lives for and the sort of contact high that is more than readily available on Azarath’s crushing ‘Blasphemers’ Maledictions’.
Hailing from Poland, Azarath have been going, in one form or another, since 1998, although the pressures of the music business took their toll on various members over the years. The pressure, however, while it may have resulted in some members leaving, seems to have ignited an ungodly sense of purpose in the remaining members and the resultant album revels in a snarling sense of purpose and the sort of excellent and inspiring musicianship that we’ve come to expect from Polish death metal acts. Released in both digibook format and ultra limited gatefold LP, ‘Blasphemer’s Maledictions’ is an essential addition to any death metal fan’s collection.
Opening with the brief, scene-setting ‘Arising the black flame’, what follows is a collection of ten tungsten-tipped death metal blasts that match fury with ability and sees the band lay down none-more-vicious death metal with astonishing technicality and some blistering solos. ‘Supreme reign of Tiamat’ is a case in point – a gloriously brutal run through death-metal pastures with Necrosodom’s vocals front and centre in the mix, it is one of those tracks that has you sitting bolt upright, wide-eyed with amazement and with every nerve-ending in your body on fire. It’s a searing, energetic piece of death metal obnoxiousness and the near-perfect production renders the whole thing with such clarity that at high volumes it feels like the band is in your living room. Couple all this with stunning, fluid solo runs and you have the core sound of Azarath and you can start to understand why they are well respected enough to have played with both Behemoth and, the kings of the Polish death metal scene, Vader. Next up is ‘crushing hammer of the antichrist’, a stunning, frenzied attack that leaves the first track gasping in the dust and the competition some miles behind that. It is technical, relentless and utterly awe-inspiring – everything you could ever want from a death metal album really – and that’s only the first two tracks.
‘Firebreath of blasphemy and scorn’ is up next and it achieves the near-impossible feat of proving to be even faster and more brutal than the previous two tracks. It is a measure of the band’s skill that despite the speed, the song sounds remarkably cohesive and you can only imagine how many hours of practice went into the band’s current level of prodigious proficiency. ‘Behold the Satan’s sword’ is, as the title may suggest, a moment of supreme evil, revelling in its superlative unpleasantness and featuring some devilishly astounding guitar work and beautifully rounded out by the creepiest outro since Slayer recorded ‘Hell awaits’. ‘Under the will of the lord’ drinks from similar waters to Behemoth for a trip into imperial territories with Inferno’s astounding percussion briefly stripped away to reveal Necrosodom’s vocal in all its glory. Utterly, crushingly heavy it is quite possible that this will be the heaviest release of the year and the crisp, savage production is perfectly gauged to deliver it all with maximum ferocity… which is precisely what the unbridled rage of ‘The abjection’ needs. A solo-laden blast of pure savagery it slays the competition with nothing but a blood-soaked grin and a thirst for death and it will undoubtedly destroy the mosh pit in the live arena.
The last part of the album sees the apocalyptic ‘deathstorms raid the earth’ kick off with a brutally ground out thrash riff before Necrosodom vomits out the sort of noise that would traditionally apply a knife to the gullet… or chronic laryngitis. Whichever, it is an impassioned and raw-throated vocal performance and you wonder how he manages to keep it up whilst being simultaneously grateful that his band has the chops to match him for ferocity every step of the way. ‘Lucifer’s rising’ sees the band adopt a more soundtrack direction, whilst maintaining the crushingly heavy edge that serves them so well over the rest of the album. Listening to it at volume is rather like standing on the train-tracks with high-speed train heading straight for you, the oncoming rush flooding your body with adrenalin and the simple desire to move. It’s all rather overwhelming really. ‘Holy possession’ is a devastating attack on the senses that recalls the more challenging scenes from The Exorcist and then you’re into ‘Harvester of flames’ a six-minute-plus epic that finishes the album off in a hail-storm of melodic solos, white-hot riffs and raw vocals. It is the perfect close to the perfect death metal album.
Exhibiting all the technicality you could wish for and a self-possession that rivals Nergal’s, Azarath are an inventive, endlessly proficient and exciting death metal band. Boasting tunes that make you want to throw your fist into the air from the moment the album kicks off till it’s dying moments, and astounding artwork (which is all the easier to appreciate on the limited vinyl edition which comes pressed on gold marbled vinyl and is limited to 666 copies) this is an essential death metal release that simply does not let up from start to finish. A phenomenal achievement and a stunning record.