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Review: Nazxul - Iconoclast

Label: Moribund Records
Year released: 2009
Duration: 56:09
Tracks: 14
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 4.25/5

Review online: August 18, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
Readers Rating

Rated 4.38/5 (87.65%) (34 Votes)

Maybe it's just an Aussie thing, but I've never felt that we've produced much to remark upon in the way of metal. I mean sure, there's AC/DC, although they don't really count, and underground favourites like Alchemist and Lord, but I just never think of Australia when I'm thinking about great metal bands. Well, slap me upside the head will ya? With the recent aural beating delivered by Deströyer 666 and their new album Defiance, I'm now getting smacked about on both sides of the head as Nazxul join the fray with Iconoclast. It's been 5 years since we've seen anything from this mysterious 6–piece (sextet you say?), and after finally getting my hands on this blast of unholy terror I have been happily sitting here getting brutalized from both directions and praising the grim horror of Aussie metal rage.

Once the obligatory (but thankfully short) atmospheric intro is out of the way Nazxul blast out of the gates with the volume and theatre set to 10 with "Dragon Dispitous", awash with a mammoth production with deep bass, flesh shredding guitars, head pummeling drums and layers of gothic cathedral keyboards. Seriously folks, pump this shit up on any decent stereo and you are going to kill any elderly neighbours in the near vicinity. The sound actually reminds me a lot of the thunderous wall of sound on Draugnim's Northwind's Ire, although musically these two albums have little in common. The only way I can describe this music is "majestic" with its huge swell of sound that envelopes the listener without ever becoming murky or noisy. It is, at its heart, what you'd call Symphonic Black Metal, similar to country mates Astriaal or Anthems-era Emperor, but much, much darker and menacing, driven by the keys and guitars in equal measure and propelled forward with frequent blasting and rumbling double bass. That's not to say it is one dimensional in any way; the music is dynamic, and orchestral in a way that defies description. There are frequent atmospheric interludes, and as always these sometimes work, as with the post-apocalyptic vision of "V" or "II", and sometimes fall flat, as in the "should be menacing, but you can tell there isn't really anything lurking there after all" let down of "III". One thing you will not be able to escape here is the keyboards – they sit on top of everything, and though they lend a giant sound to the album, they don't really do a great deal or offer much in the way of variety. It is quite welcome when they shrink back behind the curtain on occasion and buy the album some space, such as the mid-section of "Set in Array" where their near-disappearance makes their re-emergence that much more spectacular. So be warned – if you don't like this constant gothic key accompaniment, you are going to have a hard time with this album. Vocally Luke Mills delivers some insidious dark and raspy Black Metal staples, and while they are buried a little too deep in the mix, but they sure do sound cold and vicious.

Iconoclast is an album that makes you feel like you should be doing something nefarious while it rumbles along in the background, as though urging you to commit some church-bound atrocity or indulge in some unspeakable infernal rite. This would be a great soundtrack to a violently indulgent post-apocalyptic nightmare as it is viscerally evocative of such a shadowy landscape. However, as powerful as it can be, it does weigh you down after a while. At 14 tracks and 56 minutes it is an exercise in endurance, as while the music is fairly dynamic in pace and is broken up with several atmospheric pieces to rest your ears, it does start to sound a bit samey by the time you get to track 11 (which is awesome by the way) or 12. So yes, by all means go and grab this album, it is evil and ponderously grim at all times, but expect it to take some time for it to ingratiate itself into your regular playlist.

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