You’d be forgiven for not recognizing this New Zealand-based threesome. It would seem as though Dawn of Azazel have waited a long time for their time in the proverbial limelight. Despite having formed in 1999, this will be only their fourth full-length album. Losing a frontman and going on hiatus from 2009-2013 seems to have done little to deter their focus, as evidenced on The Tides of Damocles. This behemoth of an album goes from chaotically spastic to groovy in a matter of minutes, and does so quite naturally. The songwriting is varied for a modern death metal album, relying on acrobatic riffwork in lieu of misplaced and overly technical solos. It’s refreshing to hear an album that places memorability and originality over wankery, and Dawn of Azazel have delivered ten tracks of sonically varied death metal.
What the band has done better than most modern metal outfits on The Tides of Damocles is that they are aware of when to slow the pace down for dramatic effect. Instead of blasting the listener with technical proficiency for a solid forty minutes, Dawn of Azazel use a slight doom metal influence to create crushing passages of music that keep things interesting and unexpected. This is exemplified perfectly on closing track “Tarnished Gold”, when the band goes from a frantic death metal pacing to a monolithic and devastating riff that appropriately closes out the album. This doesn’t mean that the band can’t create completely ass-kicking death metal, though; they prove this time and again through the running time of the release. Standout track “Irresistible Foe” flies out of the gate with speed and precision, and the intense twists and turns that occur throughout the five-minute runtime are both rewarding and mind-numbing.
Unfortunately, there are a few duds on the album as well. The plodding pace of “Strike First, Strike Hard, Strike Often” leaves a little to be desired, and the vocals can be monotonous to some. Though they are passionate and well-enunciated, the range leaves a bit to be desired for those who expect high shrieks mixed with growls. Bassist/vocalist Rigel Walshe favors a mid-level scream, and while it works for the majority of the album, a little variation could have perfectly complemented the beautifully lurching tempo changes. This will do little to affect how most listeners view this album though, as Dawn of Azazel have crafted an immense album that checks all of the boxes for the extreme metal fan. The Tides of Damocles has lived up to its loftily epic name, and deserves a home in the library of every modern death metal fan.
1. Strike First, Strike Hard, Strike Often
2. Irresistible Foe
4. The Odious Tides
5. Forever Enduring, Always Ready
6. Controlled Burn
7. Progeny of Pain
8. The Eagles Grasp
10. Tarnished Gold
Pre-order this here. You know you want to.