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Azazello (Russia) - 2002 - "The Wings"
(40 min, "Starless")


******
                 
Track List:

1. The Wings 35:08
2. Sun 5:02

All music: by Kulak, except
2: by Kulak & Afanasiev.
All arrangements: by AZAZELLO.
Lyrics: by Kulak, A. Tulupov, & M. Jahlil. 

Line-up:

Alexander Kulak - electric & acoustic guitars; vocals
Vitos Afanasiev - keyboards; flute; backing vocals
Dima Bakay - basses
Idris Faridonoff - drums & percussion

Produced by Kulak (Tynda, Russia). 
Engineered by Kulak & Bakay at "Volos" studio.

Preamble. "The Wings", the third album by the best contemporary Prog band to come out of Russia at the end of the last millennium, Azazello, was released in November of 2002 by Moscow's Starless Records. This label will distribute the CD all over the former USSR republics, including Baltic ones. Within the next few months however, the Italian recording company Mellow Global Media will release "The Wings" for the worldwide distribution. Also, it must be mentioned that the 'international' version of the album features five tracks, and not two. In that way, I'll review it separately when it is released on Mellow. If you wish to read the reviews of the debut and the second albums by Azazello, click > here and > here respectively.

The Album. I remember that most of the reviews of the band's previous album, "Upstairs", were, at best, just reservedly positive, though, according to most reviewers, the main drawback of the album was its weak sound quality. It's clear (and understandable) that most of the progressive reviewers don't have time to listen to an album they are going to review more than once. While the band's music on "Upstairs" is so complex that it's just impossible to get into at the first listen, and it concerns even the most profound and experienced reviewers. Well, it's the same story regarding the third Azazello album, "The Wings". There are very little repetitions on the monstrous 35-minute title track of the album. Everything is here in the state of a constant development, and hundreds of different musical dimensions that the song consists of, change each other kaleidoscopically and exclusively with the use of complex time signatures. As well as in the case of most of the compositions on "Upstairs", the music on The Wings represents somewhat of a heavy Classical Music performed by dints of Prog-Metal and Symphonic Art-Rock. Thanks to the fact that the band's equipment was renovated last year and there are currently many new instruments, including a few modern synthesizers, the musical palette of The Wings is incredibly rich. Apart from the riffs and solos of electric and bass guitar, solos and passages of synthesizer and piano, and the parts of drums, those of string, chamber, and Russian folk instruments, all of which sounds just unbelievably realistic, are present practically everywhere on The Wings. All of this, and also solos and passages of an acoustic guitar, are amazingly interwoven with basic musical structures, some of which, by the way, are here heavier than those on any of the band's previous albums. In addition to his large arsenal of keyboards, Vitos Afanasiev plays a flute, the solos of which are both highly original and virtuosi. On The Wings, there are lots of unexpected transitions into the other musical dimensions where there are the exclusive and quite odd interplay between the solos of bass and passages of piano, solos of percussion instruments (including vibraphone) and lush passages of strings, etc. Well, Sun is quite a 'sunny' song, all the contents of which are about a pure Modern Symphonic Art-Rock of a light character and moderate complexity. Here, you'll once again hear the solos of acoustic guitar that are interwoven with basic textures. Finally, I think I should mention that purely instrumental arrangements cover about two thirds of The Wings and about a half of Sun.

Summary. While all four of the band members were always notable for their virtuosity, the vocals of the founder and the main mastermind behind Azazello, Alexander Kulak, as well as the backing vocals of Vitos Afanasiev, are here much better than ever before and are really outstanding. However, many aspects of "The Wings" are marked with signs of a solid improvement and the most significant of them concern the sound quality of the album. So I'll be more than surprised if now, critics won't finally realize that Azazello is a really unique progressive music entity.

VM: February 10, 2003


Related Links:

Azazello: >http://www.progressor.net/azazello/

Starless Records: http://www.inrock.ru/

Mellow Global Media: http://www.mellowrecords.com/


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