Get On These Alghazanth Re-releases, Scrub
Woodcut Records is putting out a whole bunch of Alghazanth re-releases and you should be spending your time and money on them
I have made no secret that I am a big fan of Alghazanth’s work. They were laid to rest last year, with Eight Coffin Nails, which subsequently made it’s way to my end of the year list. Their releases between 2008 – 2018 are some of the every best black metal ever put to tape if you were to ask me, so it should not be a surprise that I would jump at the chance to feature their name once more beyond the grave.
You see Woodcut Records, which remained the band’s label throughout their career, is re-releasing their first four albums. Or so their press release and website claim, which is a little misleading since they’re in fact repressing Alghazanth’s five first albums, including first of their untouchable four-album run, Wreath of Thevetat. The most devout reader of this Toilet-themed blog may remember that I did mention on the aforementioned review I was not nearly as much a fan of their recorded output’s first half as I was of the latter’s.
This stands true to this day, the leap they took with Wreath of Thevetat was no small feat, but that does not quite mean that the albums now being re-released would be without their worth, one among them especially standing out. But first, let us take a brief look into the others.
The Polarity Axiom (2004)
In many ways The Polarity Axiom is exactly alike it’s predecessors. Melodic black metal that’s garnished with plentiful keys. Though on this record, Alghazanth is still very much a guitar-centric band, a fact further stressed than on their other albums, as it feels if the keys would occasionally just drop out to leave more room for the guitar, only to rise back after a while. This, and the occasionally even little-too-frequent riff changes can make it seem hectic and unbalanced.
On the other hand, it features some of the best songs the band had written up to that point. “The Herald for Reason” in all it’s Dimmu Borgir -esque swagger beats many a band that actually reached for the Norwegians’ throne, “Forsaking The Yoke” makes good use of choir-vocals and both “Soulquake” and “Drakomorphos” feature particularly forceful and twisting riffwork. The soon-to-be-exiting vocalist Nebiros sounds a much more worn out and thin here than on the previous couple of albums, which hardly helps it’s case, and between this and the next record Alghazanth would go through extensive line-up changes and a stylistic revamp that The Polarity Axioms more restrained approach (in relation to Osiris – Typhon Unmasked) foreshadowed.
It’s not quite fair to say it had one leg over the line, change was already coming and it did not necessarily do good for the album to be caught in the crossfire. Still, it’s put up with time fairly well, and thanks to a few better compositions, a fairly smooth listen.
Suggested Listening: “The Herald for Reason”, “Drakomorphos” & “Forsaking the Yoke”
Osiris – Typhon Unmasked (2001)
On their third full-length, Alghazanth was firmly back on track following their original vision. Yet Osiris – Typhon Unmasked features such straightforward aggression and choppy riffing as not heard on any other of their releases. It’s also perhaps their most obviously symphonic record, the keyboard arrangements are more plentiful and perky than elsewhere and even though the band did not forfeit riffs, this is the closest the keyboards arrangements ever came to define their songwriting. In contrast to the wider array of styles incorporated in the riffing Osiris – Typhon Unmasked presents greater inter-song dynamics than any other Alghazanth record, even featuring some harmonized riffing on the opener “The Circle of Six”.
Though the scope of the vision and the production budget do not quite meet, O – TU has some of (early) Alghazanth’s finest songs, but also a few less-than-memorable pieces and a very much unnecessary “Symphony of Destruction” cover, and suffers worst of inconsistency in Alghazanth’s discography. It would prove to be guitarist Veilroth’s final album in the band’s ranks as well, though he would briefly continue his musical career in Behexen, among whose ranks he would participate in the recording of the classic By The Blessing of Satan before focusing on his label Dynamic Arts Records – which consequently does not seem to have released anything, or updated their social media since 2013.
Suggested Listening: “The Circle of Six”, “The Parody’s Zenith” & “Horns and Feathers”
Subliminal Antenora (2000)
The band’s sophomore represents the one time Alghazanth made an effort to incorporate “outsider” influence into their music, drawing from death metal in addition to their still fledgling “majestic black metal”. This mainly manifests as a few chugging riffs, and a more awkward flow, but it’s not as great a stylistic shift as some people (the band themselves included) have made it seem on later years. Subliminal Antenora began the band’s long tradition – according to drummer/lyricist Gorath Moonthorn – of failing to deliver on even-numbered records, an assessment I disagree with, even though the sophomore falls short or their remaining discography.
Had the band followed further with the experimentation on Subliminal Antenora, their sound would likely have taken a very different turn, but could still have ended up like no other. Or who knows, maybe they’d have sounded like a keyboard heavy version of whatever Behemoth is trying to do now. But they didn’t, and Subliminal Antenora remains a side-step in Alghazanth’s discography, better than it has been given credit for – better than I’ve previously given it credit for – though still a far cry from the heights they would reach.
Suggested listening: “The Mirrored Deathwish Paranoia”, “Daemonolith” & “Breathless Flesh Sculpture”
Thy Aeons Envenomed Sanity (1999)
And here we are, for the longest time I felt Alghazanth’s full-length debut was the strongest of their early output. For the longest time, as in this morning – I’ve been writing this in real-time simultaneously while revisiting the records. Of their first four records it’s closest to the majestic black metal that would come to fruition from Wreath of Thevetat onwards, focused on melodic tremolo riffs and keyboards much more in tow, largely following the guitars, though not to a T.
It’s also the most consistent of the four, and while it does not have any clear ups and down, it avoids becoming blurred thanks to more careful details – the somber but hopeful guitar melodies on “Towards The Tempting Infinity”, guest appearance by Thyrane vocalist Blastmor on “He Awaits…” and the shift into a dirge-like mood on “When The Spirits Dance In Grief”. Though revisiting these records has raised my appreciation for each of them, and I’ve discovered that many of their best songs were actually found elsewhere Thy Aeons Envenomed Sanity still remains a careful favourite, not suffering from any of the revolving issues of the following few.
Unfortunately, it also featured a pretty goddarn bad cover art. Fortunately, it only featured a pretty goddarn bad cover art as Antti “Nuitar” Saikkonen, who would design many of artworks adorning the bands later albums was commissioned to re-design it, and he’s done a fantastic work (as seen below). I would have by far preferred if he had redone all of the covers, but I understand that would have been a tremendous undertaking, and not necessarily one either party had an interest in.
What does make this particular re-release even more special is that the band’s last demo Promo 1997 is being included as a bonus. There’s some grumbling to be made over their two other demos Dim Is The Moonlight and Behind The Frozen Forest not being included as bonus tracks on any of the other releases, just as it could be noted that in the very least Subliminal Antenora’s artwork is screaming for a re-design in that unlike the latter two in their circle-centric restraint is not just lacking in goodness, but also actively bad. But realistically speaking, what kind of a person only grumbles for more when they’re already receiving this much extra?
Suggested listening: “Of A Stormgrey Vision”, “Towards The Tempting Infinity”, Ensnared In Moonshades” & “When The Spirits Dance In Grief”
Wreath of Thevetat (2008)
Oh yeah, we still have this one. Listen, I’ve just listened to four Alghazanth albums in a row and I think I need a cig-long break, so I’m not going to do this one today. I do it every other day anyways. With a heavily renewed line-up – bassist Grimort moving to guitars, new keyboardist Ekholm and bassist-vocalist Goat Tromentor from Swallow The Sun / Hedonihil / Kuolemanlaakso – Alghazanth fully realized their vision of majestic black metal, as they’ve referred to their style. There not a song here that doesn’t play on my heartstrings, not one weak moment or a point of contention. 6/5, 5/7, all three thumbs up. Just buy the goddamn thing already, it’s guaranteed to be better than whatever it is you’re listening to right now.
Suggested Listening: Tracks 1 – 8