Azure - King of Stars-Bearer of Dark - 2005 - Deathgasm Records
1. Greeting Chaos 2. Dead Men's Shadow Flickering 3. The Lake of Death (Magnion) 4. Whispers of Echoes Passed 5. Selene- The Spirit 6. Shadows In Midark 7. The Storm (Hill of Heimad) 8. King of Stars - Bearer of Dark 9. title
Azure, a relatively new name to the extreme metal scene (though not for long), return after a long period of dormancy with ‘King of Stars – Bearer of Dark’, their most complete, expressive, and mature work to date. More releases in the past seven years than the two demos they offered would have likely been well received, or at the least raised their profile, but the ‘quality over quantity’ philosophy often performs more admirably over time, as appears to be the case with Azure.
Azure truly do run the gamut of styles and sounds. By mixing various subgenres of metal that, admittedly, on their own are no longer original, Azure breaths new life into each, letting them play off each other to create a record that is unpredictable and unique. Death metal Vader, avant-garde Ephel Duath, progressive Opeth, interpretive Root, and folk-inspired Windir all sprang to mind at one point during the course of ‘King of Stars – Bearer of Dark’. Although, as is nearly always the case with such comparisons, Azure does not quite live up to some of the aforementioned groups’ achievements, the comparisons are mostly favorable ones, and it is rare that so many seemingly isolated and iconic sounds could be so appealingly meshed.
One of Azure’s few difficulties, though, is their modicum of strong, memorable song cores. Each song on ‘King of Stars…’ is at the least a solid offering, but not too many of them are immediately identifiable or strong, stand-alone tracks. And, with the average song pushing 6 minutes, it seems almost as if Azure spend most of their time searching for each song’s identity, only to move on prematurely once that memorable melody or rhythm has been established. This makes for a number of tracks with compelling final minutes, but a listener might be hard pressed to identify which ending fit with which song after the first 30 seconds of each.
Perhaps this is simply the foil of the progressive genre, and Azure certainly are that. A wide range of instruments take the lead at various points of the album: bass, guitar, even an organ at one point. In fact, the only aspect of this album that is not obviously progressive is the vocal effort, which is nearly all yelled/screamed at a moderately high pitch (hence the Ephel Duath comparison—not always a good thing). Clean vocals do make appearances, but rarely during verses and never for extended durations. While this style makes for one of Azure’s most original facets, it also can be difficult to listen to for the entirety of the album.
Regardless, Azure have made a quality record in ‘King of Stars – Bearer of Dark’, doubly so for their anonymity (though drummer Mattias Holmgren was once a member of Naglfar). The icing on the cake, as it were, is the standout artwork. ‘King of Stars…’ boasts one of the better lyric booklets and artistic spreads of the past year or so; the classically inspired but dramatically modern style well represents Azure’s aims and progression.
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