Azazel – Witches Deny Holy Trinity (2015)
Black metal finally clarified traditionalism for me. There is an inner spirit to things, like a shape that unifies form, and then there is an outer appearance, which is more like material properties and methods. The inner spirit is how you assemble your mind to understand something and roughly how it fits into the broader pattern of the universe.
Few people know what made black metal great. They look at outer properties, like having lots of riffs, the vocals, the imagery, the distortion and bad production, the rhythms, and certain modes and techniques. That is not actually black metal. Black metal is the journey told by each song and how it relates to a spirit in approaching the world, and it cannot be emulated.
This album reminds me of late hardcore. All the riffs are there, the right patterns, and the associated production, imagery, and vocals. It is pleasant enough to listen to in the background and if nostalgia is important to you, it scratches that black metal itch. Many of the riffs are creative and interesting. The problem is that the songs do not add up to much.
That is, each song is derived from the form instead of the spirit. To make black metal, you have to first find the spirit and then see what it suggests, and conjure up a song to present that. That is a two part process: first an art, and second more of a technical task of finding riffs and rhythms to get us to the point where that moment is shocking and insightful.
Think about the classics of black metal. Each song was like a story. It started out someplace, and then patterns kept re-appearing, but they gained something in each repetition, and then the song led to a peak. That peak was expression of the spirit through contrast in riff phrases. That is what delivered the black metal eureka moment.
Azazel gives us none of that. Instead, it sounds like a local band who are there to play in the background at a favorite pub. You basically hear sonic wallpaper that strongly signals black metal, and every now and then you pick up a cool riff or pairing of rhythms. Songs cycle through verse and chorus with a few theatric interruptions that relate to nothing in particular.
I am not saying that black metal has to have ideology. Quite the opposite… ideology is an outer method. Black metal has an understanding of the world that occurs below the level of articulation, so something more like what is uncovered through meditation or being out in the woods. You feel, but your feeling is logical, and focuses on something distinct.
There were lots of bands like this back in the day. Except for record collectors looking for “diamonds in the rough,” a phrase that usually means adjusting our standards downward, no one remembers them. They expressed nothing. There was no spirit comprised of inner ideas, which as the glimpses of profundity one finds in philosophy and art. There was only method.
Witches Deny Holy Trinity nails the outer methods better than the original bands. This is 100% consistent, balls-out black metal with energetic violence. Much of it shows musical talent. For those who want to relive the diehard experience, this provides a good option, but it is not black metal.