Dawn of Azazel - The Tides of Damocles - (8.5/10)
Published on April 20, 2015
Time to drag the waters.
Violence plays an integral role in the red realm of death metal, and while no shortage of groups supply the genre with the requisite amount of rage, only a choice amount present this aural embodiment as decisively as Auckland’s Dawn of Azazel.
Initially a war metal offshoot, this Kiwi trio have continued to refine their assault tactics on every successive release. 2004’s Law of the Strong was a jagged and underdeveloped debut, but the band made quick strides with the release of Sedition, a furious sophomore effort that heard the group add greater technical brutality to their songwriting while maintaining a uniquely menacing vibe. But it wasn’t until 2009’s Relentless that Dawn of Azazel truly came into stark, bloody form, unleashing a maniacal and unstoppable third effort that sent shockwaves through Waitemata Harbor and across the surrounding seas with its seething array of terrific blackened death.
That was five and a half years ago. Now Dawn of Azazel are back, and they’ve brought one demented present in The Tides of Damocles, a record that once again proves how a little change can be a good thing.
Fans should be delighted to know that bassist/frontman Rigel Walsh has lost none of his trademark drill-sergeant aggression, nor has he toned down on any of his empowering, ultra-dominant lyricism, inciting from the jump, scarcely giving the listener a moment to raise their fists. Conversely, Joe Bonnett is as mad as ever on guitar, ripping off riffs that speed perilously ahead and halt on a moment’s notice, lending the album a frantic and off-kilter demeanor that’s rife with as much attitude as it is with a strange and unusual vision. Last but certainly not least is Jeremy Suckling who once again kills it behind the drums, stalking the leads of his bandmates and sparing no lives when he opts to let loose with a barrage of inhuman cymbal work and thundering kick drums. The skill of this trio hasn’t waned a single iota, even if the album, in contrast to its predecessors, is an entirely different beast.
Whereas Relentless was exactly that, The Tides of Damocles, certainly no sales slouch in the tempo department, is far more interested in creating a diversely unsettling atmosphere that even hears the band enter some quasi-doom territory with the insidious closer “Tarnished Gold.” There’s likewise an influx in melody, albeit scattered and minimal, as well as a definite new-found accessibility in both the cerebral, often progressive songwriting and the clear yet blistering production of Erik Rutan. A sheen—not quite modern, not quite ‘old-school’—lurks within songs like “Progeny of Pain,’ with its mixing of alien sounds and pummeling, rolling riffs, and the band’s first single, “Vassalplasty,” is driven by a strong percussive backbone, similar to the sound of many of these atmospheric sludge bands, that eventually detonates with a solid minute of ground-trembling chugs.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of The Tides of Damocles must be the band’s emphasis on groove; never relying on it, but rather allowing it to even out the blasting and otherwise caustically grinding death. “Irresistable Foe” is a great example on this communion, but none are as directly punishing and memorable as the penultimate track, “Damocles,” which culminates into one of the gnarliest songs of the year.
While Relentless is still the band’s high-water mark, the openness and brutal variety found on The Tides of Damocles is undeniable. Couple that with the wonderful cover artwork by the mighty Nick Keller, and you have the makings for one tremendous record.