What the fuck is going on in Poland?! I can only assume that the water supply has been tainted with the blood of Lucifer, because the country is responsible for some of 2011’s gnarliest metal albums. The likes of Stillborn, Vader and Iperyt have all managed to rip my head off repeatedly this year, but there is one band among their Polish brethren that blows them all out of the water. That band is Azarath. Blasphemers’ Maledictions is their fifth album, and I’m quite ashamed to admit that it’s also my first exposure to them. But after listening to this recording thoroughly and repeatedly, I can tell you that you needn’t be familiar with their back catalog in order to know that Azarath is creating some of the most devastating (not to mention most addictive) black/death metal out there today.
Featuring Behemoth’s Inferno behind the drum kit, Azarath might not be as well-known as his day job, but calling the band a “side project” is to do them a great disservice. In fact, Blasphemers’ Maledictions easily out-guns and out-classes the last few Behemoth albums on both a musical and conceptual level. Azarath don’t need faux-Cenobite costumes or videos full of bloody, naked trollops feeling themselves up in order to get their point across; they rely on sheer ferocity, heaviness and craftsmanship (does that word pop up in every review I write, or what?), combined with a lyrical approach that serves as a highly blasphemous call to arms against the putrid Abrahamic faiths.
Blasphemy is an important component of both black and death metal, but in the case of Azarath (as well as other Polish metal bands), it’s interesting to examine what stokes these anti-religious fires. According to Wikipedia, 88.4% of Poland’s population belongs to the Catholic Church (as of 2007). This may go a long way towards explaining the fervor with which Azarath assaults the almighty on Blasphemers’ Maledictions. Lyrics such as “Spit at the face of the creator of falseness / Piss on the cross, reject the trinity of merciful cunts / Blaspheme the pitiful son of the whore” don’t leave much to the imagination. As a Catholic school survivor, I can identify with the desire to defy and condemn when faced with a majority that wants to literally shove the “body of Christ” down your throat and wash it down with his “blood”. The band attacks their chosen subject matter with an OTT bloodthirstiness that I can’t help but find commendable.
Azarath backs up their lyrical violence against Christ with music that’s equally eviscerating. Imagine the twisted, tangled, heaving riffage of Morbid Angel (prior to them turning into a sub-Marilyn Manson shit-fest, of course) being gang-raped by the pure fucking armageddon of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas-era Mayhem and you’re getting close. Add in the relentless, pummeling attack that Vader and Behemoth employed in order to put Polish death metal on the map, and you’ve got a pretty complete picture of where Azarath are coming from. All of this is wrapped in an atmosphere that recalls the blackened orthodoxy of early Watain and Deathspell Omega. Each of the album’s ten proper tracks has its own character and displays a compositional deftness and understanding of dynamics that puts Azarath leagues ahead of just about any contemporary metal band you could name.
The above analysis still doesn’t manage to do justice to the jaw-dropping craftsmanship displayed on Blasphemers’ Maledictions. On second thought, fuck “jaw-dropping”, Azarath rips your jaw out of your skull, stomps it into dust and sets the dust on fire, leaving you utterly speechless. The album exemplifies everything I look for in extreme metal and is as close to perfection as I’ve heard in a long time. Azarath haven’t just set the bar for black/death metal in 2011, they’ve fucking smashed it to bits, creating a timeless work that should firmly enthrone them amongst the ranks of the elite.