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Relentlessly Aggressive - 90%

Shadoeking, December 14th, 2009

I have been waiting for this for quite awhile. Since the band is no longer on Ibex Moon Records and it was quite a while before they made a new record label announcement, I had to keep an eye on their Myspace for news about the impending release. Now that I have the album, I have just one thing to say: The title of the album is apt.

Relentless has always been one of the best terms to describe this New Zealand trio. The band is not as ferocious this time around, substituting some of their raw power for a more refined, but nevertheless, still earth-shaking approach. The underrated blackened death/thrash band brings the fury on this eleven track powerhouse of an album. The album should contend for inclusion on any year-end lists of the best metal albums, of course it probably will not due to the under-the-radar nature of the band.

The riffs are still razor-sharp and fast as hell. The drumming has gotten more technical and steady with the inclusion of Jeremy Suckling behind the kit (drums have been one of the weaker points in the band's history). The band has always used a variety of time signature changes and tempo shifts in their music. As such, a good drummer is essential to the band's sound. This time around, they have a really good one. Of course, Rigel Walshe's manic screams and shrieks are back at the forefront of the band's sound.

A couple of other things have been added to the band's sound this time around. First of all is a clean production. This has had the effect of taking some of that raw hostility out of the sound. The production is perhaps a little too clean. With this kind of metal, it is always preferable to have a dirty production and not smooth out or neutralize any of the band's innate aggression.

Another addition to the sound is the use of some surprisingly impressive guitar solos. Dawn of Azazel has stayed away from guitar solos quite a bit in the past, but some of these solos are almost Slayer-esque. Joe Bonnett has improved his playing significantly.

As for the songs, Dawn of Azazel did appear to make a concerted effort to write full songs. That was occasionally a problem with the band in the past as well, many of their songs did not have a clear direction and were simply exercises in aggressive riffing. The band clearly focused on their songwriting abilities this time around and there is therefore no filler on this album.

Dawn of Azazel smoothed out a few problems with their previous albums on this, their third full length release, and improved their sound noticeably. No, it does not have the same dirty production or raw thunder that the band has developed over the years, but it is nevertheless the first great full album the band has put out. This album should help propel the band into the genre's elite.

Violent and riveting - 80%

autothrall, November 20th, 2009

Dawn of Azazel is one of New Zealand's stronger metal acts, and as they prove with this 3rd full-length effort, they are not above the incorporation of modern elements into their sound. This is a pretty groovy album, with a lot of big meaty rhythms that squeal and shake you to the core. Paired up with Rigel Walshe's scratchy, nihilistic vocals, the album often feels a little like the more aggressive side of metalcore meets death. Now, before the xeno-metalians and 'elitists' decide to panic and find a dank dungeon to hide themselves in and cry, Relentless is a fine example of this styling being applied correctly. It's very metal, and it's very good. It's a little more brutal than a band like, say Gojira, but has a similar attention to production standards and huge grooves.

As for its lyrics matter, Relentless focuses on the struggles of flesh, the strength and futility of manhood and the indulgence in vices and sin, and it does so through a very aggressive, staggering slew of percussive, almost drunken precision (I know, an oxymoron). The riffs all lash at you like the spiked ball end of a flail, and you can only imagine the slamming that goes on during this band's performances. I personally enjoyed the songs which go a little above and beyond the meaty punishment, like "Majesty" which rolls out a pensive, atmospheric guitar line above the choking, thundering rhythms. "The Art of Seduction II: Ravishment" also has some nice discordant guitar work which adds a layer of vitriol. But the majority of the album is sheer barbarism, and tracks like "Fornication Revelation" and "By My Hands" are extremely violent and riveting.

The album sounds crazy. Blast it in your car and you're likely to drive all potential dates/girlfriend away in fear. But all your friends will love it, until they snap their necks after 2-3 tracks, then they'll just lie there, looking dizzy and empty. But you can't sit still when you hear something this bombastic, it's got a mathematical edge that can make fans of Meshuggah and Gojira salivate while probably still appealing to the more open minded tech death crowd. Dawn of Azazel have delivered their tightest selection of tracks to date. Don't be confused by the covert art, it's a little sillier than their prior offerings but that was likely the intent (the band has an obvious sense of blunt humor).

Highlights: Majesty, Fornication Revelation, The Art of Seduction II: Ravishment