AZELL: Death Control

Death Control

While Azell is technically a new band, fans of Christian metal will recognize both of the members’ names. Husband-wife duo of David and Courtney Napier have also been the creative force behind genre chameleons TIMŌRĀTUS since at least 2017 (releases before then seem to be solo efforts from David).

TIMŌRĀTUS has dabbled in a number of genres including black metal, doom/drone metal, grindcore and metalcore, and now Azell adds sludge to the list. For the uninitiated, sludge metal (or sometimes sludgecore) is the slower, heavier sibling to doom metal without any traditional metal or melody whatsoever.

But where sludge can verge on the sloppy or even the downright ridiculous “Death Control” shows control, focus, and a clear vision of what heaviness can be. This is music created for exploring deep, dark caverns—either literally or figuratively. The album features appropriately creepy album art, with only a single panel insert. This means no lyrics in the inserts. While this will not be a problem for many fans, those who want to dig deeper into the lyrics or band’s background will be left guessing.

I’m struggling to find other bands in the genre to compare Azell to, for two reasons. First, there are very few sludge bands in the Christian scene, Oregon’s Warlord being the most notable exception, and their sound leaned towards the noisier, sloppier, slightly more sludge-core side of the genre. Secondly, most of the secular bands who play in the style feature lyrics and aesthetics that are suggestive of heavy drug use, violence and/or occult imagery, and Azell just doesn’t go there, despite being as musically heavy as those bands (Grief, Noothgrush, Eye****god, Buzz-oven, etc.) And while Azell is comprised of Christian members, the band is not being marketed as a “Christian band” in the strict sense. Their lyrics are focused on responses to horror films, short stories, and the like. But I’m of the view that believers can write about any number of topics and stay within a Christian worldview. Some bands preach, others focus on worship, and still others write about darker topics and fictional material. Each of these approaches can be valid if done well.

Let’s talk pace. These tracks are slow and heavy, just like sludge should be. Only one song picks up the pace, “End it All,” which hits at a thrashy speed and reminds me a tiny bit of some industrial metal stuff. On the opposite end of the spectrum, penultimate track “Echoes of Eternity” drags to a snail’s pace at around 30bpm.

You might not be looking to Azell for spiritual nourishment or theological depth, but there are some dang heavy tunes here to enjoy.

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