The Order Of Azrael
The Book Of The Beginning Of The End Of Days (Advance promo)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

There's nothing like a short and snappy title, and 'The Book Of The Beginning Of The End Of Days' is, indeed, nothing like a short and snappy title. So who is this bizarrely wordy band, The Order Of Azrael? It's not easy to find out. The band have barely raised their heads above the parapet as yet, and their website, while extensive and well-designed, manages to be at the same time frustratingly short of basic information. I can only tell you that the band is based in the vague hinterland of near-London, they're a three-piece, they call themselves things like 'Watchman' and 'The Doctor', and the (short, inconclusive) biography on their website begins like this: 'An occult master and a high priest of technology meet in an inappropriate pub in Kent. A decision was made to start a band that would be something different. Something darker - much darker...'

Well. High concepts ahoy, obviously. This is a band with grand designs (literally - look at the artwork on their promo CD!) - but are they nothing more than a high-falutin' vanity-project? I mean, there's a special links-page on their website for fan sites, which is surely a touch of the Spinal Taps from a band who don't even have a fan *base* yet, let alone fan *sites*. Or do The Order Of Azrael actually function on a more prosaic level as a no-shit rock band? We shall play the CD and find out.

The opening track, 'Red Water', elbows its way into latter-day Killing Joke territory with a big, crunchy, guitar riff. There's a busy jingle of electronic highlights over the top, and a vocal which (intentionally?) seems to have been given a Rosetta Stone-ish treatment. Think 'Adrenaline' fighting it out with 'Millennium' and you won't be far off. The production is smooth, but perhaps a little over-compressed - when the band take it down to a kick-drum break, the sound is a little muted where I'd prefer it to...well, *kick*. Then again, I suspect this is a guitarist's band: the guitar is more to the fore than the rhythmic elements of the music, and that's always a dead giveaway.

'Seven Kings' opens with a vintage-goth drum machine flourish and one of those classic goth guitar parts which I didn't think anyone did any more. The vocals here are more of a croon - I get the impression the singer's being slightly careful, cautiously feeling his way around the lyrics, rather than just letting rip. His vocal also seems to have been multi-tracked for that 'monks in the cloisters' feel, which isn't necessarily the best option when you're trying to hold your own against a raging guitar. But as a slice of late-eighties goffick rock, this works. The band obviously have the style nailed down, to the point where I'd wager that this is where their musical hearts lie.

There's a little virtual (?) harpsichord interlude, and then '1563' takes us into folk-metal territory, with lyrics that speak of 'Mist in the fields' while the biggest guitar sound since Black Sabbath churns away. Again, the vocal effect is multi-tracked and thus curiously muted. I'd really like to hear this with *one* big voice, right up front, and a real drum kit hammering away behind everything. The drum machine sound - a less than explosive 'tchok-tchok-tchok' noise - is frustratingly weedy, up against the big, bad, wall-o-guitar. There's a take-no-prisoners rock anthem in here somewhere, but it needs a rock *band* and rock *production* to bring it out.

'Killing Time' sees The Order Of Azrael go a bit Rammstein, and in this case the drum machine sounds much more appropriate, in this fast-paced dance-floor friendly track. I'd still like to hear the kick-drum really stick the boot in, though. 'Tomb' is sombre and portentous, a slow-moving procession of a song, with lyrics that speak of 'No justice in the halls of men...' 'Deus Veneficus' remains in the same emotional zone: an introspective song which nevertheless picks up the beat a bit and even features a synthi-string section. It's the kind of thing that would probably sound like an awesome tower of rock 'n' roll - a veritable Orthanc, in fact - if it had a Jim Steinman production. The Order Of Azrael's self-produced sound can't scale such dizzy heights, alas, but you can see where they're trying to go.

And that's probably a good overall take on the album. The band are obviously trying to go for a *big* rock sound - sometimes with a bit of goth-influence, sometimes with a touch of contemporary industrial rock, and sometimes with a slab of Sabbath-style crunchy metal added to the mix. There's probably room on the rock scene for a band like this, because nobody's bringing together those influences in this way at present, but when you're going for a big sound, a large-scale, cinemascope production is really what's needed. The Order Of Azrael aren't quite there yet, but if they could convince a record label to stump up for a week in a half-decent studio with an experienced rock producer, I reckon they just might be on their way.

The tunestack:
Red Water
Seven Kings
Killing Time
Future Mourning
Deus Veneficus

The players:
Watchman: Vocals, Guitar, Programming
The Doctor: Vocals, bass, keyboards
Huxter: Guitar

The Order Of Azrael's website:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: