Reviewed: November 2021
Released: 2021, Primitive Reaction
Reviewer: Adam Starkey
When Venom set the wheels in motion with their aptly-titled ‘Black Metal’ in 1982 and the likes of Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum defined the genre a decade later, not even the most fervent corpse-paint-wearing basement-dweller would have predicted the genre would still be thriving in 2021.
And yet here we are. Whether you lean towards the more cerebral offerings such as Wolves In The Throne Room’s ‘Primordial Arcana’, the folk-tinged ‘…And Again Into The Light’ by Panopticon or the classic sound of Impaled Nazarene and the aforementioned Mahyem’s new releases, 2021’s black metal platter is an expansive feast that has a bit of something for everyone.
Enter Finland’s Azazel with their 3rd full-length release, ‘Aegrum Satanas Tecum’ (which is Latin for ‘sick Satan is with you’). A gritty, lo-fi affair by way of its production, the album has all the hallmarks of quintessential, early 1990s black metal from the sprawling, fuzz-drenched guitars to the battering, potent urgency of the drums. Howling wolves and evil laughter on the intro track ‘Invocation (Hail The Ancient Ones)’ may come across as slightly gratuitous but act as a precursor for album highlights ‘Jesus Christ Impotent Rotting Saviour’ and ‘Welcome To Church Bizarre’.
There are flashes of Satyricon’s ‘Now Diabolical’ era black ‘n’ roll riffs and Immortal’s tribal, thumping mid-paced fluidity through the early parts of the album, whilst there are more than a few heads bowed in ‘A Blaze In The Northern Sky’ worship throughout the record. And therein lies part of the problem. That sound was perceived and perfected nearly 3 decades ago and, whilst ‘Aegrum Satanas Tecum’ is a solid album, it offers little by way of new ideas. Rather than breaking ground, Azazel are merely putting a crack in it.
Of course, there are those that will argue that black metal shouldn’t progress, flourish or expand; that it should stay deeply rooted in the underground and its sound should remain organically and intentionally destitute. This album is for them. For the rest of us, the tick-box nature of the songs and the listless drifting into copy-and-paste territory as the record draws to its conclusion will render ‘Aegrum Satanas Tecum’ one of the year’s also-rans.