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Sons Of Azrael - "Scouting The Graveyard" (CD)

Sons Of Azrael - "Scouting The Graveyard" CD cover image

"Scouting The Graveyard" track listing:

1. Welcome To The World (3:26)
2. Mr. Macabre (2:37)
3. Arson & Apathy (3:33)
4. Scouting The Boneyard (3:32)
5. The Grand Design (2:45)
6. A Numbing Flood (2:47)
7. The Left Hand Path (3:36)
8. Howl Of The Antichrist (2:12)
9. Touched By God (3:40)
10. Frozen In Time (3:36)

Reviewed by on January 28, 2010

"...Sons of Azrael combine death, grind, and thrash in a straightforward assault again on their second full length, 'Scouting the Boneyard.'"

Sons of Azrael hail from Buffalo, NY, where other bands like every Time I Die and Cannibal Corpse got their start. Using that as a starting point, they released a few demos in the mid-aughts and their first full-length came in 2007. Garnering some positive reviews, critics cited Sons of Azrael as a modern extreme mix that avoided the clichés of ‘core. Following in a similar vein, Sons of Azrael combine death, grind, and thrash in a straightforward assault again on their second full-length, “Scouting the Boneyard.”

Sons of Azrael begin to gorge from the table they previously set straight away on album opener “Welcome to the World.” Sixteen seconds of a crashing wall of blast beats, guttural screams, and down tuned guitar tremolo begin the ceremony. The song gallops off from there, with the vocals of Joe Siracuse combining with the guitars of Tony Lorenzo and Karl Kirsch for a tenacious a-tonal pummeling, mixed with just enough searing solos and sludge-drowned mid-tempo riffs to keep it interesting. Quite a welcome indeed.

But the band is more than just a warp speed tremolo outfit. Mixed into the machine precise drumming and laser-focused riffs are dynamics, melody, drama, and a good sense of song craft. Short blaster “Mr Macabre” has the standard grisly lyrics, but also shows a keen arrangement as Siracuse’s vocals drift over the musical assault like victims trying to escape; and when the vocals audibly rhyme we can’t help but clap awkwardly with glee. “Arson and Apathy” plays the power chords ominously before moving in a rolling thrash crunch. The band trades melodic dramatics with wall of sound crushes, and both modes enrich the other, like motor oil and spoiled vinegar. The title track slows to such a crawl at the end it truly feels like the band is about to keel over in happy death.

Sons of Azrael also manage to be modern without clichés. When the play their “breakdowns” they don’t really sound like a hardcore-inspired mosh softened by the mainstream, but instead they are a heightening of the music already established, slowing down the tempo to bleed out every sound wave. And there are no appearances of sugary solos (just brutal ones) or clean vocals (credit to Siracuse for being able to be understood for most of the disc anyway). And like good death metallers, they keep it short – the longest of the ten songs is only three minutes and forty seconds – and get to the point while cutting out the interludes, atmospherics, and general chaff. The only exception is “Howl of the Antichrist,” and it is a painful two minutes.

Sons of Azrael have indeed crafted an excellent sophomore full-length. Maybe it is their notable forefathers from Buffalo rubbing off; maybe it is all the practice time they get during the interminably long winters. Or maybe these five guys just know how to play really good extreme metal. But as another skull gets split by their executioner’s axe, it doesn’t really matter. The band’s namesake, the Islamic Angel of Death, now has a fitting soundtrack.

Highs: “Mr Macabre” and the title track are two standouts among many.

Lows: The atmospheric interlude “Howl of the Antichrist” is the only misfire.

Bottom line: Focused, serious, and powerful death metal from the northern wastes of the… U.S.A.!

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)