Azaab – Summoning the Cataclysm Review

“Azaab” is an interesting word. Translated from Urdu, it means “torment” or “agony.” If that isn’t metal enough for you, the word itself sounds brutal; that harsh “z” consonant, violently squished between an unrelenting onslaught of vowels, all culminating with the unassuming but no doubt homicidal “b.” Ironically, Azaab is also the name of a death metal band hailing from Pakistan. This Islamabad-based five-piece just unleashed their debut album Summoning the Cataclysm upon an unsuspecting world; a world with plenty of metal detractors who would most assuredly call their sound “agonizing” or “torturous.” As for me, Azaab’s straightforward death metal assault, combined with techy flourishes and top-notch performances, is right up my (blood-soaked) alley. But with so many DM releases clogging the already festering AMG promo sump, can these newcomers set themselves apart? 

When considering how to describe a band, one of the last places you should look is their promotional material; too many meaningless adjectives and even more false promises. However, eager to be the exception that proves the rule, Azaabs promo scribe was pretty spot on when they described the quintet as “straddling the grey areas between old school and technical, melodic and brutal.” Indeed, there are moments on Summoning the Cataclysm that sound like the latest in tech death wizardry, and there are others (often in the same song) where the caveman-riff has you more eager to clobber a fellow Neanderthal than analyze time signatures. And look no further than album opener “Pandemonium Twilight” for the perfect mix of melodic and brutal; just when you’ve ingested a dose of haunting synths and plaintive acoustic plucking, you’re hit with a wall of double bass and searing leads that rise to a mighty crescendo. If this all sounds like quite the oversell, it may very well be. But I’ve spent several weeks with this slab o’ Azaab and call me Jordy Verrill, because it’s grown on me.

By the time you’ve hit “Carbon Plague,” it might be too late for you, dear reader. In both theme and sound, Azaab’s Cattle Decapitation is showing, and if their take is somewhat more restrained, it’s no less brutal. Azaab has the good sense to kick off a majority of the songs on Summoning the Cataclysm with thick, chugging, pit-stoking riffs that ease you into the techy maelstrom to follow. “A Hollow Pact” and “Preachers of Hate” handle this transition perfectly, with their mosh-friendly intros giving way to a vibrant style of tech death that displays variety and virtuosity without sacrificing groove or accessibility. “Trophies of Flesh” injects some melancholic vibes to augment all the potent, barbarous proficiency, while mid-album tune “When Worlds Collide” whips some djenty, Meshuggah-esque syncopation our way. Not to be outdone, closer “B.L.O.O.D.B.O.R.N” wallops the listener with a taut, thrashy riff, unexpected tremolos and “Wykydtron” sci-fi. While there’s certainly a lot going on here, none of it feels superfluous or out of place.

At its most excessive and ineffective, tech death can jettison basic humanity in favor of soulless mechanical mastery. But Azaab have a secret weapon in their arsenal: guitar solos. It sounds like a no-brainer, especially for a technical DM band, but on Summoning the Cataclysm, the approach is more emotional than mathematical. On track after track and amidst the engaging ferocity, the guitars soar and emote, establishing an impassioned core within the general techy noodling. I don’t think I can overstate the effectiveness of this approach, and I wish more bands of their ilk would take a page from the Azaab playbook. Coupled with a tremendous drum sound (think taut, machine gun snares and explosive double bass) and vocals thankfully excavated from the middle of the mix, and I can’t help but love how this record feels and sounds.

I have gripes; we all have gripes. I think the Decapitation cover “The Empty Throne” is unnecessary and ill-fitting. I also have a minor issue with the fact that it takes repeated listens before some songs finally click. But these are minor and ultimately, the hard work of revisiting and replaying pays off. This is perhaps the most hopeful score I’ve ever given, even if it seems low compared to my laudatory language. And yet it’s nothing compared to the heights I expect this band to reach. So tuck into this slab o’ Azaab. You’ll be happy you did.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Maxima Music Pro Satanath Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 15th, 2022

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