Azarath – Saint Desecration Review

I want to do my best to respect the awe-inspiring Grymm. I inherited Azarath as he was too busy with other things to tackle it.1 I want to do him justice, to approach the Polish blackened death metal collective with the respect and professionalism due. I would mention that the act began as a side-project of Behemoth drummer Inferno and Armagedon guitarist Bart, currently featuring Embrional vocalist Skullripper and former Lost Soul guitarist Peter on bass. So, given the formidability of the members and the solid catalog Azarath has amassed, I want to treat 2020’s Saint Desecration with the privilege and honor it is owed. Why not with Holdeneye-esque dad jokes? Does 2020 bring a fresh coat of saint to Azarath? Or does it fall into de-second-rate?

My experience with this Polish quartet began with 2011’s Blasphemers’ Maledictions, although their reign of terror has lasted over the course of six full-lengths since their formation in 1998. While groups like Behemoth or Maveth rely on plodding heaviness while sinister atmosphere convey blasphemous tones, Azarath has always been more in the camp of Akercocke or Goatwhore in their blasting thrashy sting outlined by vicious vocals, chaotic blastbeats, and wild drum and guitar work. If you were a fan of 2015’s In Extremis, 2020’s Saint Desecration brings more of the same. The most glaring difference, however, is found in the man behind the mic: while Necrosodom brought an unhinged versatility, Skullripper offers a far more sinister approach of deathier blackened roars more reminiscent of Veld or Lost Soul. Ultimately, while Saint Desecration differs little from its predecessors or other blackened death offerings for that matter, it’s nonetheless a stunningly solid album promising complexity and brutality in equal measure.

Saint Desecration, like In Extremis, finds its sweet spot at the intersection of dissonance, riffs, and dynamics. Opener “Death-At-Will,” “No Salvation,” “Reigning Over the Death,” and closer “Beyond the Gates of Burning Ghats” are clear highlights in this right, creating tastefully balanced blackened endeavors that feature brooding passages of dissonant plucking, wild guitar solos, and kickass riffs, emphasized by a versatile vocalist. Tracks like “Sancta Dei Meretrix” and “Profanation” are uncompromising exercises in brutality that benefit from their brevity and technicality, further emphasized by punchy staccato riffs. It seems as well that Azarath heeded Grymm‘s concerns with lack of bass, and implemented a bass intro into “Let Them Burn…”, which ends up being a nicely tasteful introductionto an otherwise bland track. Drumming, as perhaps expected from Inferno, is a stunning highlight throughout Saint Desecration, blending technicality, speed, and subtlety in his build-ups, blastbeats, and fills. Blessedly, while Inferno’s drumming was a casualty of the mix in 2015, the issue has been addressed, making the hyperblast sections more dynamic than In Extremis’ passages.

For all their good, Azarath remains stuck in their ways. Other than the change at vocalist and improvements in mixing and the bottom-end, the ethic remains virtually unchanged. Most tracks wouldn’t feel out of place on an In Extremis B-side, for instance, following the same template as its predecessor:  brutal riffs, nutso solos, and blasting. As the album is frankly a straight thirty-nine minutes of hyperblasting, tracks also have a tendency to bleed into one another. Further, “Inflicting Blasphemy Onto the Heavens” and “Fall of the Blessed” are almost indistinguishable from “Sancta Dei Meretrix” or “Life is Death, Death is Life,” following the same songwriting cues. “Let Them Burn…”, other than its sweet intro, falls into unspectacular territory, especially in comparison to the two tracks before it. Overall, Azarath’s performance is blistering, but its combination of Goatwhore and Behemoth, albeit solid, is simply not distinct enough to separate from the blackened death metal pack, even if their dynamic approach separates them from the “blast ’til the goats come home” ethic of Belphegor or Hiss from the Moat.

It’s clear that Azarath remains consistent from In Extremis in songwriting and emphasis on dynamics, flaying listeners’ ears with kickass riffs, dissonant technicality, and stunning performances all around. Saint Desecration is still blackened death metal, however, and does little to stand out, but if it’s a scathing pummeling your heart desires, Azarath will provide. These Poles have taken one step forward in the presentation of all its assets, but have taken one step back in their stubbornness to change. Basically, Saint Desecration is a lot like In Extremis which is a lot like Blasphemers’ Maledictions. While it may not be a fresh coat of saint, no need to fix what ain’t broken.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Agonia Records
Releases Worldwide: November 27th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Something about Shores of Null? Shore thing, buddy.
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