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Azazello (Russia) - 2000 - "Black Day"
(49 min, "Moonchild")


*****+

1.  Beginning of the End 6:49

2.  Black Day 4:42 (instrumental)

3.  I Love That World 6:04

4.  Free Flight 4:46

5.  Demon of Love 6:11

6.  Take Your Choice 6:40

7.  Night Before the Christmas 10:44

8.  Christmas 2:15 (instrumental)



All music by A.Kulak,

except:

5 & 6 by A.Kulak / D.Afanasiev,

7 by A.Kulak / D.Afanasiev / A.Tulupov

8 by A.Kuleshov / A.Kulak

All lyrics by A.Kulak.



Originally recorded at "Volos Records" studio, Tynda, Russia, in Jan 1998. Engineered, mixed and produced by A.Kulak. Digitally remastered at "Moonchild" studio by Brian Hirsch: Dec 1999/Jan 2000. Cover design and layout by B.Hirsch. Line-up: Alexander Kulak - guitars & vocals; Vitos Afanasiev - keyboards; Dmitry Bakay - bass; Idris Faridonov - drums

The Album.

First off, please allow me to express my delight with the work of my (sad to say 'ex') countrymen - the first official full-length album my (and they will never be 'ex'!) friends of Azazello have recently released through the excellent American label "Moonchild". Really, like in case with Garden Wall, we run the official Azazello homepage, and we are happy to run the homepages of the Best (!!) Contemporary Italian and Russian Progressive Rock bands on our site!

Originally "Black Day" was released in 1998 on cassettes only by the Azazello guys themselves, but now, thanks to wonderful work by the owner of "Moonchild", Brian Hirsch (read the review on his own "Inter-Dimensional Space Commander" album here), who has - truly masterly - mastered their demo for CD, we currently have it as the official, universally distributed CD-release. And this is really a brilliant debut - but... first of all, instrumentally.

Black Day is a real progressive killer - this instrumental composition is full of a wide-variety of themes, arrangements and solos from the direction of each musician, though the work of the guitarist and keyboardist is simply outstanding in general. By the way, Brian Hirsh has remastered the album very unexpectedly - IMHO, in the best meaning of this word. He changed the original, obviously metallic sound, as I heard it on the "Black Day" pre-production tape, up to unrecognizability, and so currently (officially!) you couldn't call Azazello (yeah, as well as Garden Wall!) a band of Prog-Metal genre. Yes, some elements of that genre have remained on "Black Day", but its overall sound now is something like what we traditionally call a Classic Art (Symphonic) Rock. Sounding of each instrument become crystal clear, it is especially obvious from (wonderful) interplays between guitarist and keyboardist.

Christmas is the second and last (in all meanings) instrumental here. This is an acoustic piece, written specially for a classical guitar - the second excellent one, as we all still love such acoustic pieces (just remember early works by Steve Howe in Yes and Greg Lake in ELP), played with guitar only. Qualitatively Christmas is quite comparable to the best examples of that style with its complex, on the whole, structures and virtuostic playing by the bandleader Alexander Kulak.

Take Your Choise is another absolute masterpiece. The guest female folk vocal group introduces a very distinctive Russian folk colour to this thematically excellent composition. Unfortunately, that Russian female folk vocal group sings in only the song Take Your Choice, and I'd recommend Azazello to use such wonderful singing more often maybe, even almost in each song, but only partly, in order to create a truly unique (let's call it distinctive Russian) overall sound.

All the other songs on album instrumentally are excellent, too. The music by Azazello really contains all the necessary 'progressive' elements - diverse themes within each separate song, complex arrangements and virtuostic playing by all the Four. Then, why I was grudging to add a half of the rating star more to the debut album of my own (in some ways) band to rate this work as a masterpiece? Good question...I am demanding to myself. But, how I can tell lies (in general, but especially) regarding the band, which is *exactly* so dear for me? I've rated "Black Day" as just almost a masterpiece owing to vocal data by the bandleader, exceptionally talented composer and lyricist, virtuostic guitar player Alexander Kulak. His vocal data are just OK, or to say more correctly, are just more or less satisfactory. His singing is by far not excellent, and so another one advice I dare to give the band I sincerely love (just remember Garden Wall - then I simply should necessarily have rated all four of their albums as masterpieces): IMHO, their most important purpose is currently to find some really good vocalist, and it would be much better if he would an English speaking person. Then, with such a unique music, Azazello could be a real Progressive Rock star, appreciated world-wide.

VM. August 17, 2000


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