Being a huge(!) fan of DAWN OF AZAZEL’s most recent album, 2009’s “Relentless,” it seemed only appropriate to backtrack and see how their earlier efforts helped form one my favorite Blackened Death Metal records.
Well, after numerous spins of “The Law of the Strong,” the band’s initial full-length jaunt, half of me is glad to have heard it, and the other half is grateful that DAWN OF AZAZEL were able to evolve beyond this pots-and-pans cacophony of a recording. For all you kvlt-ass Metalheads who prefer your music under-produced, chaotic, and challenging, look no further. “The Law of the Strong” may show glimpses of brilliance, but for the most part, this is just one gigantic shit-show of strange ideas that ultimately never materializes into the freak-show it desperately attempts to be.
The sound is heavy as hell with a bass and guitar that grind and buzz in unruly dissonace, but they’re tandem ferocity is a feature that rarely works and is simply not overpowering enough to save the album’s drab and puzzling configurations. The third track, “Victory (Iniquity Guides My Blade),” is such a confusing melting-pot of ideas that by the time its five minutes are up, you’re doing much more head-shaking than head-banging. As weakly as that song remains, “I Stand Unconquered” rolls in impressively with a variety of tempo changes and insane blasting, but again, and I’m not sure whether it’s the grimy and impersonal production or what, but finding enjoyment through muffled, seemingly aimless hammering is beyond me. Is the snare drum supposed to sound like that?
The album is really all over the fucking place. The eight-minute meltdown known as “Justice is a Fist” features a grueling and bad-ass middle section before eventually fading into a perplexing finale that sporadically streams like red piss as Rigel Walshe’s cries and Joe Bonnett’s guitars eventually bring us to a painfully satisfying conclusion. The closer, “Monarch of Bloodshed and Eternal Victory (Solar Invictus),” with its bland blasting and nearly Nu-Metal riffing is just a fitting way to end an album that is nearly entirely revolting and uninteresting.
“Law of the Strong” is an endurance test to listen to for more than two or three songs in succession; actually sitting down and digesting the album entire is more akin to zoning out during a tattoo session; it’s agonizing, but it’s really all about mind over matter. You can do it if you truly actually care to. I’ve read that this album would be a worthy companion piece to bring with you to war; well, lemme tell you, whoever listens to this in the midst of battle is not going to last very long. Sure, this shit is brutal, which I’m sure is precisely what the band set out to achieve, but did they have to abandon all semblance of cohesion in the process?
As much as I thought this album sucked, again, what you have with “Law of the Strong” is not what you have on “Relentless.” DAWN OF AZAZEL have improved immeasurably in nearly every facet since 2004. It’s salvageable for its chaos, for its sheer effort to destroy, and for a primordial look at how far these Kiwis have ventured and matured.
I wonder how 2005’s “Sedition” is…?
(Online June 8, 2011)