When Polish black/death vets Azarath brought in vocalist/guitarist Marek “Necrosodom” Lechowski for 2011’s Blasphemers’ Maledictions, the already great band seemed complete. Not that Necrosodom brougth with him some sort of elite pedigree (depends on your opinion of Anima Damnata?), but the already quite vicious band sounded more vicious than ever, and Necrosodom’s savage, throaty, and absolutely wrathful vocals were a huge part of that. Combine that with Bart and Inferno’s best set of songs yet, and you had a towering monster of a record (not to mention my 2011 Album of the Year).
In Extremis, then, represents the second (and last?) album of this supreme lineup, and finds Azarath about as willing to let you catch a breath as they were six years ago. If you are uninitiated to the band, know this: Azarath is the sound that results from drummer Inferno thinking his work with Behemoth is laid back lounge music. And it isn’t just the tempos or the ferocity of the vocals or even the onslaught of blasts, but the whole of the music that feels far more aggressive and just more pissed off than 95 percent of the rest of metal.
If anything, the band set out to be even more relentless and ludicrous with In Extremis. Opener “The Triumph of Ascending Majesty” bursts forth with zero foreplay, seemingly starting in mid-blast and mid-solo; the knife was already plunged deep, and the album is merely about twisting it. Changes in tempo or riff concentration don’t necessarily reduce the violence, but merely switch the weapons. If that opening flurry was a whirlwind of blades, the neck-wrecking transitions are more like getting bashed in the face with a boulder-sized hammer.
Damn near every second of In Extremis carries this quality. In fact, the one knock a person could make against Azarath — both here and on every record — is that they aren’t exactly a band with a ton of variety. (Or a ton of bass. I guess that’s two knocks that a person could make.) It’s all blasts and cutting tremolo lines and maniacal solos and endless attitude and the occasional Immolation-esque brutality and wicked good vocals from Necrosodom. Do certain songs sound really familiar to others? Sure, but that’s the point, this is single-minded stuff, but with this level of savagery, nothing even approaches getting old over these 40 fury-of-Hell minutes.
When a band is just this damn great at every aspect of their sound, nothing can get old. Every time they land a knockout blow with a combined drum-cymbal-guitars smash, it fuels your will to dominate. Every time they tease more tech with a fluttery high tremolo burst (“Sign of Apophis”), it sounds like a deadly laser being shot out from amidst the band’s otherwise medieval maelstrom. And every time the entire band is at full mauling force, it is almost exhausting.
It certainly helps that Azarath (very) occasionally inserts something (slightly) different. For example, it’s pretty wicked when Necrosodom changes up his typical peanut-butter-in-the-back-of-his-throat roar for a desperate preaching at the end of “The Slain God.” It’s also great when the violence (slightly) eases back for some of the album’s many solos, adding just a hint of class and sophistication to the proceedings. Perhaps the most fun tiny detail on the album is a quick, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hook during the verses of “Parasu Blade.” It is a simple enough, lightning fast riff ascension, but it has a certain video game “level up” quality to it. The message is simple enough: MARIO JUST FOUND A FIRE FLOWER AND IS GOING ON A RAMPAGE.
Hot godDAMN this shit is fun, and for all of the reasons that your parents warned you about. Azarath is the musical equivalent of pure violence, and In Extremis revels in that quality as well as any of their other albums. It also boasts a set of songs that bests any of their albums not named Blasphemers’ Maledictions, and there is little shame in coming up just short of that one.
In Extremis is going to put a huge smile on your face, and the worst of intentions in your mind.