Azaghal have come a long way since their primitive 1999 full-length debut. They’ve sharpened their knives to the point that Omega (Moribund, 2008) evokes the same rush as when I first heard 1349 – storming, belt-fed black metal with riffs that flow like lava. The hyperspeed hook that starts “Tämän Maailman Prinssi” is neck-snapping. (I love how Finnish bands hand out umlauts like AOL CD’s.) At 1:19, the riffs turn sad and epic, like Angelo Badalamenti scoring a war movie; trills then flick like forked tongues. I just used three straight similes, but this music leaves me little choice.
“Kaikkinäkevän Silmän Alla” carves Slayer trills before exploding in melodic ecstasy. My notes for “Vihani Raivoavina Valtamerinä”: “another firefight of a blastbeat-palooza, some majestic Viking harmonies hidden in there.” Phrygian modes rear their head, too; some riffs suggest Behemoth if they had stayed on the cusp between black and death metal. Lots of variation here – lilting 6/8’s, blistering thrash, stomps that pound oaken staffs into the ground. What’s with the silly artwork? It’s like a conspiracy theory pamphlet. You can’t win ’em all, but Azaghal come damn close.