AZAGHAL - Codex Antitheus (AVANTGARDE - CD 2005)
I must admit that I am not really that big fan of the Finnish black metal scene. Sure, there are some bands that I like and have a lot of respect for, but too often Suomi hordes annoy me with the useless primitiveness and total boredom, which only leads to bands like Horna, which have 134 releases, but only one or two are really worthy having in the collection and being listened to, if you know what I mean. Azaghal is also a band, which released fuckin loads of stuff, quite few EPs and up to 2012 they did nine full length LPs – “Nemesis” being the most recent one. But I actually haven’t heard most of them and those, which I have - like “Mustamaa” or “Helvetin Yhdeksän Piiriä” - were again nothing much convincing and influential. Few years ago I got “Codex Antitheus” and I must say that this album is actually pretty good and more so it may belong to the best Finnish stuff, which I have listened to. I tend to go back to it quite frequently and each time I do so, I promise myself to check out also some other new Azaghal releases, like the mentioned “Nemesis”, “Omega” or “Teraphim” CDs, but never have time to do that. But definitely I will do that one day, because if any of these LPs is as good as “Codex Antitheus” is, then it must be a real treat for the black metal fanatics.
The album really surprised me, as while it still has that raw and ferocious, obscure touch, it also doesn’t annoy with the useless primitivism and mindless songwriting. These songs are actually pretty good, with lots of killer moments and memorable stuff, so in the end “Codex Antitheus” delivers music, which will not leave you careless. Maybe only the front artwork can bring mixed up feelings, as not only it is not a typical black metal picture (what can be an advantage for the band), but just looks unimpressive, although it may fit the title pretty well - “Codex Antitheus” can be translated as “code of the devil”, “antitheus” meaning something like “opposite god” – “devil”.
Anyway, with the first couple of songs “Codex Antitheus” blows my mind off. The opening track is especially memorable and worthy being checked, as it probably is one of the most catchy, yet brutal black metal anthems ever written in Suomi, with that fuckin awesome chorus part, where you can also sign the word “Agios O Baphomet!!!!!!!!!”. Ha, this is really excellent. But if in any case “Agios…” sounds too epic or monumental for you, then “Nekromanteia” will make you feel better, as it is just a fuckin blast, killer fast black metal piece, which slaughters with great riffing, drumming and everything… For such songs “Codex Antitheus” is a good and worthy album. But the entire CD doesn’t impress in its entirety, as there are also few moments, which just annoy me, as I don’t really know why Azaghal decided to take also more “experimental” or should I say “heavy / power” path, using some falsetto vocals and stuff, which annoy me like crazy. While in the title track it doesn’t yet sound so bad, then in “Kumarra Petoa” it is just way over the edge, really. I sincerely think it sounds shit. Why did they think Accept riffing would fit black metal? In my opinion all those clean vocals are completely useless and only destroy the obscure, morbid atmosphere of the album. Take "30 Hopearahaa" – great fast tempo almost all the way through the song, fuckin killer… and there are those Sentenced-like clean vocals in few parts. Fuck, what for??? It’s a shame as normally I could say that I really, really like the (black metal) vocals of Varjoherra on this album. He’s got really great, throaty, raspy black metal voice and also the fact that all the lyrics are Finnish written is important, as the way this language sounds makes also the vocals sound different and more original. I actually always liked when black metal bands were using their native languages – whether it’s Norwegian, Swedish, Polish or German… or Finnish… it always sounds awesome and way more interesting that the usual English. And such album like “Codex Antitheus” only confirms that, with great performance of Varjoherra. Obviously the fact that the material is just really strong also helps a lot and more so, the production of it is just excellent; quite clean, powerful, but still maintaining that black metal harshness, which is so important in this genre, as black metal just doesn’t sound right, if it’s overproduced and too crystal clean. “Codex Antitheus” for that matter sounds really damn well.
The album is pretty much a 40 minute long blastbeat, but assorted with quite few melodies, some guitars solos and those damn useless clean vocals… Plus the finishing song - “Sieluton” – is something completely different than the rest of “Codex…”, as it is quite slow, more melancholic and sorrowful, with the clean vocals prevailing over the black metal shriek… I actually like this song a lot, I must say, it has a cold, eerie feeling, which may be different to the ferocity of the previous tracks, but I guess it composes well and stands as a good finish to the whole album. Besides, I like when the last song is different to the rest of the material, like some bands (Behemoth for instance) also do.
So, as you can see I really like the album. Definitely I must recommend it to you all, even if you – like myself – don’t really feel crazy about the Finnish black metal scene. This one is actually not bad at all and I like it a lot, despite those awful clean vocals.
Standout tracks: “Agios O Baphomet”, “Nekromanteia”, “Viha”, “Sieluton”
Final rate: 75/100