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.

Tämän Maailman Prinssi
Kaikkinäkevän Silmän Alla

"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.

Omega is available from Moribund, Relapse, and The End.