‘Alttarimme on luista tehty’, the twelfth album from Finnish Black Metal veterans Azaghal, brings a lot of surprises. Let’s begin with yet another change in the band’s line-up. Well, it isn’t as if it changes so often, but all the same. So, the band now has a new vocalist Thirteen – he operates with a microphone only, while previous vocalist Niflungr was also responsible for bass. Now all the instruments (except drums) have been taken over by Narqath, the only member left from the original 1998 line-up. And Lima is still behind the drums.
Analyzing the change of vocalist, it is best to remember the band’s next to most recent album ‘Valo pohjoisesta’. Well, Kai’s vocals were still more interesting: some abrasive, strained, full of sepulchral greatness and rhythmicity, while Mr. Thirteen’s vocals are more typical of the Finnish Black Metal scene, that sort of, you know, talkative, mostly high-pitched, maybe even with some punkish attitude. However, you’ve got to hand it to the new vocalist, he screams on point and, as the first title song shows, he also can sing to a tune beautifully. But most likely the point is not at all about whose vocals are/were better – the updated band just needed fresh blood, because the main change took place in music after all.
This is obvious due in no small way to a new approach to production. It looks like Narqath/Azaghal was inspired by Swedish Old School Death Metal, nothing less than ‘Like an Everflowing Stream’ by Dismember with its low pitched “ragged” rhythm guitar. Maybe it was unintentional, maybe, but listen to the second album from Russian Death Metallers Pyre ‘Chained to Ossuaries’ for example – in their bid to make a tribute to the Swedish Death Metal bands of the ’90s, they generated almost the same sound that Azaghal have now chosen for themselves. If you didn’t get it in the first song whose opening riff immediately grates on the ear – the guitar sound is ragged with a lot of “fizz”, – then you will definitely understand it at the beginning of the sixth ‘Kaaos’: it seems to be a typical early Gorgoroth-like tremolo-picked riff, but the low-end production does its stuff, so a tremolo picking melody sounds even groovy, reminiscenting of early Dismember. The next ‘Syöpäläinen’ reinforces this “discovery”.
The production on the previous album did not contain such anomalies: in simplistic terms, it was handled maybe in the spirit of early Marduk. It was just a classic of the genre and nothing more. By the way, the music on ‘Valo pohjoisesta’ also got a strong Marduk vibe, but this influence was eroded by frequent incursions into other Black Metal territories, apparently in order to avoid the tremolo picked dictatorship. Nevertheless, there was nothing out of the ordinary on that opus – just typical old-school Black Metal. If only something took shape on the seventh ‘AIWASS’: on the whole it was, again, a typical Black Metal piece, but a mindbending groovy riff in the spirit of Bolt Thrower at the beginning and end could make you wonder.
Well, Niflungr broke bad on ‘Alttarimme on luista tehty’. Although a Swedish Black Metal vibe is still strongly present in Azaghal’s music (however, it is more Dark Funeral-esque manner than Marduk-esque one – pay attention to the beginning of ‘Paholaisen musta kieli’ or ‘Myrkkyä’), the picture has changed in fundamental ways. Now almost every song contains a repeated duel/confrontation of elements that, frankly speaking, are not always compatible, but dutifully follow each other at the behest of the creator.
Let’s just go through the songs one by one: ‘Alttarini on luista tehty’ – a Heavy Metal passage, a slightly dissonant guitar picking and a blasting rampage; ‘Kuolemanmarssi’ – an obvious Thrash Metal riff and a typical tremolo picked black metal riff; ‘Kultti’ – very groovy alternativism (or something that can be interpreted for it), a typical tremolo picked Black Metal riff and some kind of punkish passage with piano strumming (or maybe it’s just a guitar processor); ‘Kaaos’ – a typical tremolo picked Black Metal riff and a dissonant passage, completely uncharacteristic of the band, from among the modern Black Metal attributes; ‘Syvyydestä liekkien takaa’ – piercing tremolo melody and syncopated rhythm with some punkish attitude; ‘Verivirta’ – almost the same, plus a blasting rampage.
If the song does not have an above mentioned confrontation/duel, then it still contains some unusual element that opposes the old Scandinavian black metal school: “Paholaisen musta kieli” – stop-start riffing, well, not in a Black Metal manner, but in some kind of alternative one; “Myrkkyä” – an almost heavy metal solo with melancholic guitar plucking; “Syöpäläinen” – an almost Death Metal beginning; ‘Ei valoa tuonelassa’ – Death Metal elements again.
Oh, you can be sure that “Alttarimme on luista tehty” is a black metal album above all else, but because of the production you can often get the feeling that it was made according to the recipe “to cram Black Metal elements into old-school Swedish Death Metal”. It’s as if Dismember imagined they were playing Black Metal. While seasonings from other genres enhance the amazement or delight (well, it’s each their own) when listening to this album.
The last ‘Seitsemän ihmisen irvikuvaa’ is oversaturated with spices as all get out, obviously excessively, as if it was patched up of incoherent pieces. The passages/moments are interesting on their own, there’s no denying, but they aren’t harmonized with each other. So it’s definitely the worst song on the album. While ‘Myrkkyä’ is the most beautiful and melodic piece. Actually the album is filled with beautiful and touching passages from the very first song, we note the two most noticeable: in the finale of ‘Kultti’, an epic Pagan Metal-like keyboard part is added as an addition to the “duel”, and in its turn the last third of ‘Paholaisen musta kieli’ begins with an epic passage including a melodic almost eastern-tinged lick.
Summary. Needless to say, ‘Alttarimme on luista tehty’ turned out to be unexpectedly diverse, even very diverse. Let’s be honest, some innovations in Azaghal’s music are debatable, that is, some really catches your ear, while other annoy you. But thanks to the short duration of the songs, no innovation poisons this album. In any case, if Niflungr decided not to be obsessed with the (glorious) past, it is worthy of whole-souled support.