Azrael Act III: Self/Act IV: Goat

While most groups striving to maintain the classic Ulver sound stay pretty close to the formula (with the possible exception of Agalloch’s recent work), it’s refreshing to see a band push the tried and tested "dark metal” approach into fresher territory. Combining elements of black metal, primarily in the vocals, with elements of neo-folk, martial music and doom, Azrael provide an ethereal, occasionally downright creepy atmosphere. The songs are based largely around repetitive, hypnotic, clean, mid-tempo guitar phrasings, with periodic bursts of speed and even some disorienting polyrhythms thrown in for good measure. Released as a double disc, yet supposedly comprised of two separate releases, there is surprisingly little variation present, although the rarity of the aforementioned shifts in tempo and timing make their inclusion that much more shockingly effective. To be fair, at a running time of over two hours, and with such a single-minded approach, this will be unlikely to interest all but the most ardent fans of the bleak and extreme. Those with the patience and taste for this kind of thing may well have found their unholy grail. (Moribund)