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I found this significant gem after being Rec'd it in the MA black metal thread, specifically looking for bands similar to Dissection, Vinterland, Sacramentum, Dawn and the like. I was expecting some Dissection rip-off, since that seems to be very abundant within Sweden, (People who know me know me know that I don't have a problem with Dissection rip-off bands, seeing as I practically worship them.)
I could not have been more wrong. The melody influence and theme is definitely Swedish melodic black metal, yeah, but in a way that is so original that I honestly can say that I've never heard something like this before.
First of all, I must say that I really love these kind of conceptual albums, that flow the same way that a novel would. They speak to you, like the voices of the characters in the songs, telling you their tales. This album tells the story of The Prophecy of Belhelth and the life-span of him to fulfill a prophecy, to rise the God of Nezgoulth, one who will wake in eternal flames, from his sleep. This is one of those types of albums that are even a better listen with their lyrics next to you.
After the rather eloquent acoustic guitar intro and ominous chords of the ripping distortion guitars, the album takes off, starting with a destructive blast-beat, tremolo and shrieking marriage intertwined within the music.
The first few tracks start out with some back-story with the story of Behelth, tastefully mixing with nicely timed Black/Death riffs with strong melodic influence. The solo guitars soar with over-driven tone, backed up by a strong bass. In between the storms, acoustic guitars make a strong presence over turning points within the lyrics-- The vocals give out strong impressions, as though as they were acting as the voices of the characters within the story.
The middle-later tracks, such as "Selene - The Nocturnal Goddess of Luna" and "Embraced By Flames" have some of my favorite moments within the album. With hints of synth in the pieces, it is rather tastefully accomplished. In these tracks, the drums have much more intriguing rhythms, such as the main line on "Selene - The Nocturnal Goddess of Luna". The tremolo riffs picked over these drum parts are out of this world; they give you the impression of soaring through the sky, as though you were watching the chaos of the story unfold on the earth. Once again, Azure takes breaks within the chaotic and fast-paced parts with acoustic interludes and passages that sound equally (if not more) ominous as the pounding Black/Death. I'll take this time to note out 2:04 of "Embraced By Flames" -- That chilling-as-fuck marriage between the acoustic guitar and drums as the vocalist lets out a piercing scream is both impressive and haunting.
The album ends with a synth instrumental, and then shortly after, an epilogue that mirrors the prologue, with the same acoustic works and melodies. The clean vocals on this track are exceptional, and reflect upon the "purity" of Belhelth's accomplishments and sorrows.
Overall, Azure's Moonlight Legend is lost gem, disregarded while others hover over the other big-name Black/Death bands in Sweden. An excellent album that deserves much more attention, due to it's originality, complexity, and story. It is a fantastic mix of Black/Death and acoustic work, and I believe it should get as much attention as albums such as Sacramentum's Far Away From The Sun and Dawn's Slaughtersun.
I've yet to listen to their other album, "King of Stars - Bearer of Dark" and I hope I'm as equally impressed.