Avzhia - _Dark Emperors_
(Storm Productions, 1996)
by: Henry Akeley (8 out of 10)
If I had to pick an album for "Best Really Obscure Release of the Year," this Mexican band's debut would be the one, hands down. _Dark Emperors_ is seven tracks of great black metal which totally captures the killer vibe of seminal "second wave" releases like the split from Emperor and Enslaved, while managing not to come across as generic or imitative. The vibe in question is grim, cold, and epic - qualities which can't be faked, and which Avzhia's music possesses in abundance. (Of course, the vibe also depends to a certain extent upon low-budget production, and you get that here, too, but the sound is definitely fuller and clearer than on many of the early Norse releases.) The riffing style often reminds me of the earlier Emperor stuff, yet Avzhia's overall sound is less messy and not so keyboard-heavy. Some of the more propulsive, impassioned riffs bring Enthroned or Satyricon to mind. Songs are in the nine- to ten-minute range, and always feature a variety of paces and dark moods. They don't reach the upper limits of speed set by, say, Marduk, but the fast material definitely plows forward with conviction, as on "Shadows of the Forest". And the slow material is great, exuding a genuinely doomy feel on tracks like "Immortal Spirit". Plus, the vocals are wacked! They're the most throat-lacerating black metal rasps I've ever heard. The album's final two tracks are live-in-the-studio, and although their production is fairly rough, they prove that this band can definitely tear it up and sound just wicked in the process. A very cool release.

(article published 2/1/1997)

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