HAZAEL - Thor (THE CRYPT - LP 2014)
I don’t really know how should I start this review. Should I introduce the band and this album first or go straight to the point? Ha, it’s tough sometimes to discuss albums, which are for some fans so incredibly important, while many other don’t even know them or never even heard of the band before. But this is something what shall change soon I hope, since the album saw a long awaited re-issue. OK, I will start then from my first encounter with the band… Hazael is their name. And as a Pole, who have been listening to this music since 1990/91, I got to know them already in their demo days, when I bought the excellent “Clairvoyance” demo cassette. Soon later Loud Out Records unleashed their debut album “Thor” – which to this day is a very important release for the Polish death metal. Sure, if you look at the world underground then maybe the album is not so significant and for many is nothing more but a Polish take on the Swedish death metal… Those people will always say that they prefer Scandinavian bands over a Polish one. Well, that’s only their problem. The thing is that here in Poland Hazael with “Thor” got a very good response, I think. And soon this great feedback was confirmed by a deal, which Hazael signed with Century Media. Anyway, years later it seems that “Thor” has better reputation than ever before. The original “Thor” CD, limited to 500 copies, turned into one of the most sought after death metal jewels from the early 90’s, with the prices flying up ridiculously. So, I knew it is only a matter of time, before someone will re-release the album. And it was also obvious for me that whoever will re-release it, it will be a bull’s eye!
Finally the fall of 2014 brought us the so long awaited day. A cooperation between two excellent underground labels – Dark Descent (for CD version) and The Crypt (LP) gave a birth to a re-release of “Thor”. First, I must say I am very glad that these two particular, no other, labels took care of this reissue. Why? Well, first off, they’re both leading in the present underground death metal, releasing a killer number of impressive CDs and LPs. Both have also done many similar reissues and all were fantastically prepared. These two labels gave us certainly that “Thor” is in good hands and with no bullshit and cheap quality. I wanted to see only the best results and such I can see now! The more happy I am that I can listen to “Thor” from the vinyl! For years I only had cassette, I never had a chance to get CD – I just could hardly afford it, seeing the absurd, silly price the sellers demanded. I hope that the CD re-release will stop the silliness, but more so, that it will provide Hazael (who reformed recently, by the way) a good opportunity to promote their name and this excellent album, so it won’t be an overlooked re-release… but I am the most happy that an LP is unleashed also. From the beginning I hoped to see “Thor” on vinyl and this dream came true. The Crypt did – as always - a very good job. The quality of their LP releases is undisputable. Maybe if you expect to hear some bonus tracks, demos, etc – like they did with “Subconscious Lobotomy” and “Those Shredded Dreams” for instance - then you may feel slightly disappointed. Also because the album doesn’t come with any extras like posters, stickers or chocolate bars with the band logo (hehe)… we’ve been all spoiled by previous The Crypt releases, which were rich with extra stuff. In case of “Thor” it’s just a gatefold cover with two vinyls… is it really “just”? For me it is enough! And I am sure that “Clairvoyant” demo and such “When the Sun Is Dead” EP (which I also like a lot!) will see a vinyl release one day as well!
OK, time to say something about the music on “Thor”. I already mentioned that Hazael was described as a Polish answer to the Swedish death metal (I wonder though if the band ever felt it this way hehe). But don’t take it in a negative way. I can risk and say that even in Sweden there were not many bands and albums, which would be better than this! “Thor” is simply fantastic, very well composed, performed and recorded album, with a killer set of songs – one after another, they’re all awesome pieces! I can honestly put “Thor” in the same box – when speaking of the musical style and the quality of music – with such classic records as “The Winterlong”, “The Ending Quest”, “The Karelian Isthmus”, “Subconscious Lobotomy”, “Bitterness”, “Passage of Life” and “An Evil Shade of Grey”. What all these albums have in common? They’re all finest examples for classic Scandinavian death metal, which is filled with melody and mainly focused on the atmospheric side of this music, surely more than bands like Entombed, Grave and Dismember did. Of course there’s still aggression and the harshness, but the creation of dark feeling, atmosphere and strong melodic base are the fundaments of these albums. “Thor” is no different. More so, this album even has that characteristic guitar tone, mainly hearable in the melodic parts – and it wasn’t even recorded at the Sunlight but here in Poland hehe!
There’s a couple of faster and more aggressive tracks, like “Frozen Majesty” and “Clairvoyance”, but the majority of this album can be described as dark, atmospheric death metal. Several tracks really stand above the rest – like “Kingdom of the Mist”, “Wyrd”, “Seven Winds” or the mentioned “Frozen Majesty” (also my favourite track here). The entire time this music is quite catchy and insanely memorable, and also very diverse – some faster parts, melodic riffs, doomy stuff, even few female vocals… Tomasz has also quite unique voice, surely not a typical death metal growl, but something maybe closer to the singers from early Sentenced and Cemetary albums.
This album grew old very well, it doesn’t feel out of date to me, still is very fresh and still makes a very good impression, as big as 20 years ago. I love the vinyl, it was long awaited and I am very, very happy to have a copy. I am also sure that the entire edition will be sold out quick.
Standout tracks: “Kingdom of the Mist”, “Wyrd”, “Seven Winds”, “Frozen Majesty”
Final rate: 90/100