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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.