Friday, May 30, 2008

Azazel - Ashes to Ashes CD Review

According to the press release for this disc, Azazel are “possibly still one of North Carolina’s best kept secrets.” It sounds weird to consider a band who is now broken up a secret, but it's apparently a selling point. Ashes to Ashes is actually a re-issuing of Azazel’s EP Music for the Ritual Chamber with a few remixed versions of early demo tape tracks. Even more odd is that this is considered the complete discography of Azazel -- one EP and a couple of demo tracks. Maybe the band is such a well kept secret because they hardly put out any music in their time together.

After Azazel broke up some band members moved on to other projects, most notably Between the Buried and Me and Aria. Let’s just say that Azazel’s output doesn’t measure up to the projects undertaken after their breakup. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since it's pretty hard to measure up to BTBAM. Even when not holding Azazel up to such high standards, Ashes to Ashes is still slightly underwhelming considering how important Tribunal Records wants you to believe it is.

As with many modern metal bands, the vocals presented here are the deal breaker. The growls are, quite unfortunately, strained and forced. For a significant portion of the CD it feels like the vocals are being pushed out with so much force it’s unhealthy, and we’re not talking about having a powerful, forceful voice that can command a band. Instead, this is a voice that feels like it could go out at any moment from the strain. Who knows, maybe that’s why the band had to cash in their chips after a single EP.

Underneath the throat wrenching yells is a competent metalcore base. There are also some shots of deathcore to be heard here and there as well, which at the time this was originally recorded probably seemed pretty unique. Unfortunately every third band in the metal world is doing this nowadays, but let’s not cut the band short. This was a very promising start for a new band. There are some truly gargantuan riffs throughout this EP (see the entirety of “Touch of Dying” for a song full of them), but it’s the connecting fiber between these big sounding sections that feels a little bit also ran.

For the metal collectors and historians out there, this is most definitely a strong purchase, but for all the trend hopping kiddos bouncing around, I can’t see them digging into something like this which isn’t glisteningly produced and scene entrenched. For what it’s worth, I’m glad to see Tribunal Records releasing some older albums that have some history behind them, even if they stretch a little bit the impact the band or album had.

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