(NCS contributor Austin Weber provides this review of the second album released earlier this month by Philadelphia’s Azure Emote.)
As far as death metal supergroups go, Azure Emote certainly has not only a killer line-up but more importantly a willfull intent to make music outside the confines of their genre, an aim they achieve by taking death metal hostage and lifting it to unconventional heights of sonic ecstasy.
The Gravity of Impermanence is largely the brainchild of vocalist Mike Hrubovcak (Monstrosity, Vile), who brings more then just potent beastly roars to the table. He is responsible for the electronic elements — ranging from keyboards to diverse orchestral synths and electronica — on all but three of the tracks, and he also contributes some creepy harmonica playing to the sounds of pigs being murdered on “Sunrise Slaughter”. The way the electronic elements build up the music and flourish instead of being an afterthought is a large part of what gives The Gravity Of Impermanence such a unique identity for a death metal record.
All this talk of keyboards is not to imply that guitarist Ryan Moll (Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, Total Fucking Destruction) is lacking. He isn’t. He lays down a plethora of razor-sharp, heavy-as-hell riffs, colorful leads, and spiraling solo’s. A lot of his riffs subtly remind of old school death metal, though I had a hard time pinning down who I thought they sounded like. Rounding out the trio is the always fantastic Mike Heller (Malignancy, Fear Factory), whose steady blasting and interesting patterns strongly drive the rhythm section into overload, enhancing both the mid-paced moments and the faster, all-out assaults.
Though not a member, Pete Johansen is another driving force in the music. His illustrious and haunting violin playing of both the acoustic and electric variety warmly finds a home in most of the tracks. His playing is perfectly married to Azure Emote’s ethereal web of dense electronics, and the aggressive death metal core, enhancing the music in much the same way violin does for Ne Obliviscaris.
I have to give Azure Emote credit for writing unpredictably structured music; you never know where the music is going to shift and turn or what the next track has in store. Kudos to them for making a record with such variety and emotional depths, one that is unafraid to let the non-metal parts of their music breathe comfortably. Instead of a full track-by-track breakdown I’ll discuss a few tracks to give you an idea of the elaborately constructed madness that flows on The Gravity Of Impermanence.
Saxophone in metal has become a more common occurrence the last few years, with Shining and Yakuza as examples. This new integration has been done in a death metal context before, but usually with the instrument relegated to the role of solo only, so it’s interesting to hear how much space Yakuza’s own Bruce Lamont is given to reign with undeadly skronky sax playing in the midst of furious death metal on his guest spots here. The all-out blasting sax assault of “The Living Spiral” is genius; it’s furious sax-playing amid a ripping death metal number that instantly decimates your ear drums in a new and foreign way.
Quirky yet catchy, “Obsessive Time Directive” begins with a keyboard collage and violin duo that quickly bottoms out into fierce death metal territory. This assault continues until they bust out a breakdown wrapped in jazzy sax playing and warbling electronics that sounds like a stomach churning. From there the clusterfuck then flows into a symphonic flood of rage. The song is an exquisite journey and very much indicative of the over-arching non-linear progressive approach of Azure Emote.
The standout for me would have to be “Carpe Diem”, a song that thrives on everything that isn’t metal; even Mike Hrubovcak’s growl and screams adopt a slower, almost sung quality here. The song begins with deep, ominous synths and shimmering keys matched with heavenly female operatic singing until it downpours into a backing mid-paced death metal stomp counterbalanced by blazing fast drums. After all that they still find room to cloak later parts of the song in restrained piano playing and dread-filled violins. Simply stunning and elegant in a way only the most elite acts have achieved.
With so much going on, it would have been easy for the opposing mixture of ideas to either collapse upon itself or not integrate smoothly. It really is a testament to how well these songs are written that the disparate parts join together with a tightness that is hard to beat. The Gravity of Impermanence is an experimental and majestic effort, a complex tapestry of head-spinning ideas whose well thought-out songs and reflective lyrics merge in unison. The evolution from the band’s first release Chronicles Of An Aging Mammal to this new one is highly impressive. I shudder to think how amazing and out-there their next record will be.
Azure Emote have crafted a bold, creative album full of unique music that will easily rank among the best albums of 2013. The Gravity Of Impermanence can be found at Azure Emote’s Bandcamp page, and a mere $10 will get you the album in digital, CD, or both. They are also taking pre-orders for a $25 vinyl version of the record that contains two additional exclusive tracks.