Immense Dark Sky (demo, 1995)
Demos always show bands in the process of struggle to define their voices. Once they reach that plateau, they build upon it or find it unsatisfying and move on. Immense Dark Sky shows Avzhia trying to integrate their influences into a style that reflects the origin and inclinations of Avzhia; included as influences are Burzum, Gehenna, Gorgoroth, Ancient and Emperor. These converge in a smoothly flowing style that emphasizes dynamic change between rushing simple riffs and more complex, mid-paced riffs that like the soundtracks to movies make iconic statements slowly enough to force resonant appreciation of the transition, much as it is appreciated visually in movies. The subterranean pieces of this demo comprise 35 minutes of quality exploration that owes as much to "My Journey to the Stars" in its wandering narrative composition like a house built by consecutive dynasties, rambling slightly as it expands to include all they want to throw in, and then solidifying into statements that seem linear until one considers their multiple reflections in previous motifs. Although each part is simple, the whole is by no means simple, and remains one of the greater quality demos from the New World, presaging the imaginative and ambitious Dark Emperors to emerge a year later.
Review: Streaming dark collaborations of tone and rhythm in a high speed melange of melodies that terminate in phrase-stopping dissonant counterpoints, providing a raw and unfettered sense of expansion as well as a heartpounding inexorability of destruction. Auzhia make it work through melodies composed in a style of cyclic intensity.
Each phrase augments the previous and leads concisely into the next, assuring an ever-increasing feedback loop of the dissonance of melody propelling its conclusions and the harmony of its affinity for all other notes in the composition. Although chaotic these pieces are assembled with care and diligence that make their intentionality a highlight as patterns evolve throughout often radically different styles. The closest match in previous work are the Greek bands of ripping melodic fame, such as Rotting Christ or Varathron.
1. Into the War (1:53)
2. Shadows of the Forest (8:39)
3. Black Prayer (9:26)
4. Immortal Spirit (8:32)
5. Dark Emperors (9:12)
6. Empire (7:04)
7. Screams of Darkness (6:29)
8. Auzhia (6:10)
Dark ambient potential derives its power from its ability to modulate context to the will of each composition toward closure, a symbolic destruction that is both satisfying and ambivalent in this context. Screeching feral vocals alternate with starchly chanted spoken pieces which direct contrast toward the more organic constructions of the music. Highly powerful despite its loose edges, this band is sheer brilliance with duct tape holding together the details of aesthetic.
Ancient Blasphemies (Vision D, 1996)
The second of these two tracks comes from the Immense Dark Sky demo, and the second is no surprise as it is derived from the same patterns found on Dark Emperors in transition to The Key of Throne. Like the best of black metal bands, Avzhia make raw riffs come together as a singular organic sound which finds a beauty in darkness, with influences from Emperor, Gorgoroth and early Ancient. Melodic metal with blast drum chaos underneath, poured into the mold of a rigorous structure, makes the best use of riffs which it rotates in a motif kaleidoscope, returning through the riff salad to fundamental themes. While these were later added to the re-release of Dark Emperors they fit perhaps better into the more refined but surly outlook of The Key of Throne, which despite all of our illusions insists there is epic infinity hidden in the tiniest, dirties, most vile and degraded aspects of biological and physical reality. Unlike almost any bands from this era, Avzhia uphold the transcendental yet grimly realistic outlook fundamental to modern black metal.
Split with Xibalba.
Production: Mid-level studio that is clear like stream water, with enough texture to keep away the clinical, giving some room sound to clear playing slightly favoring the higher end of the spectrum.
Review: In aesthetics this album zooms past its ancestor, but in order for the content to support this newly sleek and dynamic form, it has somewhat simplified, losing some of its asymmetry. However, the new incarnation of Avzhia, heavily influenced by later Graveland, produces more beautifully complex music that ventures into melodies whose harmony is too complete and self-serving but as a result allows longer passages that do not go offtrack -- presaging the use of the same technique by Deathspell Omega -- and so reinvigorates the romantic spirit of black metal.
This initiates a quest of forever seeking the meaning of the past and the future to unite them, and longing to be part of the struggle between emptiness and meaning that rebirths the world. In this sense, this album is very much in the graceful spirit of Romanticism that defined original black metal, including its primary influence, Emperor. Avzhia explores this spirit with songs that unfold majestically from a few hard-hitting riffs into promenades of graceful phrases which by their emphasis on interchangeable forms, emphasize pattern and through it, structure, like an echo of the Romantic ideal of understanding nature at a scientific level, but appreciating the beauty of consciousness that it enables at a scientific level.
At the opportunity cost of a slight cheesiness, in both these compactly self-reliant motifs and chanted/whispered interludes, this album enables Avzhia to build on the whirlwind spirit of their past work which unites a dark chaotic aspect with a rising beauty. The tendency to recontextualize two oppositional themes is still as present here as on the first album, but now it has been given another dimension, in that like synthpop bands and classical quartets alike, Avzhia like to bring all of the unresolved elements of their music to a fever pitch before summarizing and concluding them.
Artistically and musically, this album far surpasses its genre at this time. Its songs are not just longer but more complex, and vary the secondary evolution of verse-chorus structure, the "ring structure" in which riffs are played in a repeating pattern of serial order, so that a sense of tributaries diverging to face their own fates in smaller motif rings and returning gives the music a topographical perspective. This is insightful, perceptive music and should be treated with respect as it is wholly inaccessible to most of the black metal fanbase at this time.
Production: Deliberately noisy in a clear background, producing a forefront wave of sound.
Review: Avzhia return with an album of sweeping romantic melodies drifting through loose waltz-like anthems in the style of Graveland with hints of Summoning if interpreted by Rotting Christ. Fifteen years after the effective demise of the genre, this band grasp the abstract components of black metal that are more important than aesthetics or imagery.
The result focuses on the melancholic spirit of the genre that thrusts aside good/bad categories to find beauty in the potential energy stored between the darkest and lightest of states of the human spirit. These mid-paced songs lope through a rotation of riffs that return to contemplative and balanced intervals through a series of minor-key derivations from the major theme, keeping an atmosphere of lonely contemplation with an inner warmth.
Unabashedly sentimental, songs grow organically around a pair of themes, an ambient structure shaped by a sublimated prismatic narrative. Keyboards infuse the background with harmonic tension, and percussion supports guitar phrases instead of leading them, underscoring the album with a mood of the ancient and unformedly fecund. Vocals emerge in diffuse waves of disintegrated sound, plunging tightly through guitars to make contiguous sound like resonance tones heard through the groaning metal of a suspension bridge.
In My Domains ascends to the level of contemplation that made early black metal greater than nearly everything after 1995, but also subsumes the folk, traditional, electronic and soundtrack influences that dominated Summoning and Graveland into a smoothly flowing new style of black metal. In doing so, it casts aside the paradigm that aesthetics define black metal, and instead resurrects the spirit of the genre with a massive isolated, defiant and beautiful album.