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Azazello (Russia) - 2004 - "Seventh Heaven"
TRACK LIST: 1. Beginning 2:17 2. Macrocosm 12:02 3. Microcosm 10:51 4. The Mystery 8:29 5. Restless Rest 10:49 6. Seventh Heaven 8:55 7. Blessing 2:59 All tracks by Kulak, except 1: Kulak / Afanasiev & 7: Bakay. Produced & engineered by Kulak. Mixed & mastered at "Mosfilm". LINE-UP: Alexander Kulak - electric & acoustic guitars; vocals Vitos Afanasiev - keyboards; flute; backing vocals Dmitry Bakay - basses Idris Faridonov - drums
Prolusion. As well as "The Wings", the previous effort by Russia's best Prog-Metal act of all time AZAZELLO, their brand new album "Seventh Heaven" will exist in two forms. It was just released by Moscow's Starless Records, which will distribute the CD in Russia and all the other former USSR Republics. Within the next few months, one of the 'western' progressive labels will reissue it for the worldwide distribution. The international version of "Seventh Heaven" will also be different from the primary one, but in a much lesser degree than it was in the case of the band's third album. In fact, the difference is so insignificant that I don't think there is a necessity to point it out. Azazello's first two albums are described here and here.
Analysis. Looking back at Azazello's history to try to account why the band still didn't gain that authority, which it definitely deserves, I find at least a few obvious and explicable causes. The band's debut album, "Black Day", may not be considered at all. It's rather heavy in vocals and lacks maturity. However, the following two works are excellent by all means, but! "Upstairs" was highly underrated above all due to the mediocre sound quality, which did prevent most reviewers to hear what they had to hear, and it is no secret that most reviewers pronounce their judgement of an album after giving it only one listen. "The Wings" is marked with a solid improvement in sound, but it didn't receive a proper promotion and distribution either. But here comes "Seventh Heaven", and I am ready to lay a bet that it will radically change the situation. The album was mixed and mastered in the famous Ton-Studio, owned by Russia's largest movie factory "Mosfilm", and has an almost audiophile quality. The entire product is made by the highest quality standards. It also includes an excellently designed 16-page booklet and a container-box. However, the most telling argument is the music, just as it must be. "Seventh Heaven" carries the band's unique style laid on the previous two albums, which, in my honest opinion, is the new, Rock, manifestation of Classical music or, if you will, Classical music performed by dints of Progressive Rock - Prog-Metal and symphonic Art-Rock specifically. (For quite some time now, I find the latter formulation less apt.) This time, however, the band found the really perfect balance between complexity and melody, which, I believe, will assure the success. The construction of this 62-minute album is a triumph of symmetry. The five songs, ranging from 9 to 12 minutes, are bordered by two instrumental symphonic compositions, Beginning and Blessing, subtitled simply, but appropriately: Intro and Outro. Four of them: Macrocosm, Microcosm, Restless Rest and the title track are entities of the fundamental style, which is hybrid, as you remember. So be prepared to unexpected excurses into kindred music dimensions, such as Techno Metal and Waltz! The Mystery, located right in the middle of the album, is an exclusive union of classic Art-Rock and Russian folk music and is the feast of Russian coloring, with flute, acoustic guitar and tambourine taking the first place in the arrangement, and aboriginal Slavic traditions in singing. By the way, there is no place for darkness on "Seventh Heaven". The music remains light and inspired even in its loudest and most complex parts.
Conclusion. The conclusion on any material is just the logical continuation of its analysis, "with all the ensuing consequences". So it's clear to you, dear readers, what I would write here. Let's wait for the international release of this CD. It is not far off. However, the other reviews of it might appear sooner - first on the leading progressive websites. Please don't forget to check them. (Top-20)
VM: December 5, 2004
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