I make it a point to never judge a band by the musical contributions of its members. Case in point: Azarath. This Polish death metal behemoth boasts in its ranks Inferno from, well, Behemoth. As such, I know that many people are going to draw comparisons between this act and Poland’s favorite Satanic sons. Doing so shortchanges Azarath‘s five vicious full-lengths and their own standing among Poland’s influential scene. Their last, 2011’s Blasphemers’ Maledictions, ripped heads aplenty with its visceral take-neither-shit-nor-prisoners approach and ridiculous headbangability. How does their first album in six years, In Extremis, hold up against the strengths of their previous work?
Quite well, actually. Azarath wastes no time in leveling faces with opener “Triumph of Ascending Majesty.” Inferno’s trademark blasts gallop forth, blanketed by some savage riffery by guitarists Bart and Necrosodom. Necrosodom’s voice retains that “Peter (Vader) gargling gasoline and glass shards” viciousness and clarity that fits so well. We are treated to a bit of a reprieve halfway in with a catchy breakdown before being thrown into the vortex once more. The song closes with a backwards-sounding ominous melody, and already expectations have been met with conviction and brutal efficiency.
And not once does the band lay off the acceleration. Thankfully, a few surprises lurk within, throwing the listener for a bit of a loop. “Annihilation (Smite All the Illusions)” possesses one of the sickest groove parts I have heard in the context of a death metal song, and it’s delivered with a sickening force that you can’t help but do one of those whole-body headbangs to it. Likewise, “The Slain God” opens with an atmospheric drum/riff combo that would make Nile step out of their sarcophagi and take notice. Necrosodom does this weird-but-catchy dog snarl to open up “Sign of Apophis,” catching the ear and dragging you into the sheer insanity of Inferno’s fills and blasts. Oddly enough, as much as Inferno’s drumming is a focal point, it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the absolute savagery of Bart and Necrosodom’s riffing.
And now, the qualms. The Haldor Grunberg mix and master is as brutal as the music, and in some cases, it works against the band. You rarely hear bassist Peter’s playing unless he’s applying distortion, and even then it’s a crapshoot. When the band goes into hyper blast (which is often), the music turns into a blackened death soup of distortion, compression, and bad drum sounds. The one thing you don’t want when you have a powerhouse drummer like Inferno is to compress or weaken his drumming. Also, the back half of In Extremis suffers from severe deja-vu. On my first listen, I thought “Sign of Apophis” was double the length, as Necrosodom utilized that same barking that introduced that song in the immediate follow-up “Into the Nameless Light.” Compared to the first half, In Extremis becomes a bit too repetitive for my liking.
But I can’t help but enjoy my time with In Extremis. If there was any justice at all in this world, Azarath would stand on their own as a force to be reckoned with, and not merely known as “Inferno’s Other Band.” If you crave vicious blackened death metal, it would be a disservice not to check out In Extremis. I just don’t want to wait another six years for a follow-up.