Holy Blue Batman, talk about a revitalized beast! I’ve never deemed AZAGHAL as anything more than a merely decent second wave Finnish Black Metal band, but somewhere between 2008’s “Omega” and this new one they’ve become a really good band. I mean insanely good – to the point that this is easily one of my favourite albums of 2012 so far. Sounding more hungry, feral, dark and diverse than ever before, these Finnish bastards have just released a career best effort in “Nemesis”.
Finnish bands have proven time and time again that they are masters at weaving melodic grandeur into an otherwise abrasive sonic tapestry, and “Nemesis” is a prime example of this. Take the opening cut (“De Masticatione Mortuorum”) for instance – that main riff is as chillingly dark as it is goddamned catchy, hitting a nice balance between WATAIN and a more mid-paced MARDUK. Come to think of it, this song has an undeniable “Casus Luciferi” vibe to it. “Pohjoisen Valkoinen Kuolema” reaches further back into the past, blasting forth in what can only be described as supercharged BATHORY/NIFELHEIM (black) thrash madness. “Vihasta Ja Veritöistä” changes the tone completely, a master-class of deeply melancholy blackness that puts most so-called “depressive” bands to shame. If you love the kind of forlorn melodies of BEHEXEN then you’ll go apeshit over this one! A track like the bluntly titled “Black Legions Of Satan” is something radically different again, rocking out in reckless blackened groove fashion (a la modern DARKTHRONE), while the freezing yet epic atmosphere of the title track instantly reminds of mid-90s Swedish Black/Death like classic DISSECTION, SACRAMENTUM, VINTERLAND etc. A great throwback, and the sparse clean vocals are a nice touch. “The Pit Of Shoggoths” represents what is probably the most progressive track on the album, incorporating a main riff that is lifted straight out of the ONDSKAPT playbook with slower melancholy sections, and a bunch of really trippy solos that recalls more modern fare like LES DISCRETS or even THY CATAFALQUE. “Ex Nihilo” and “In Deathlike Silence” are the only two tracks that don’t quite make the grade.
Although the scope is quite vast, the album, at its core, remains an aggressive slice of Black Metal. The trick here is not so much revolution as it is a simple case of fine-tuning, coupled with a keen sense of subtle playfulness. “Nemesis” traverses a lot of styles and themes, and basically represents an effective snapshot of Black Metal in its various guises. Taking into account the wonderful production job, the smart playfulness, and just the overall vibrancy of the whole damn thing, and this is easily one of the best Black Metal albums I’ve heard in many months.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how AZAGHAL became kind of a big deal...
(Online March 6, 2012)