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5 stars The Russian Progressive Metal Band from Tynda is back with a release that's actually even better than their strong debut CD "Black Day" (Russian: "Cherniy Den"), released earlier this year on Moonchild Records Label.

AZAZELLO is playing Prog Metal with great harmonies, complex compositions and lots of changes in rhythm, mood and tempo. The DREAM THEATER influence, which was very present on their debut, is now less obvious. They have come closer to their own originality on this release with the addition of female back-up vocals, flute and a guest appearance of the folk band "DIVO". Due to all of these things, they have come closer to their roots. When I'm hearing the Russian female choir and the flute I instantly start thinking of Russia. The interplay between guitar and keyboards has become even better on this album too, and it's now one of the most exciting things in AZAZELLO's music.

Once again, the guitarist Alexandr Kulak has written all the songs. He's also responsible for all the arrangements. Alexandr have been very kind and he has sent me his and AZAZELLO's work continuously the latter years. The song "Wake Me Up" is one of those. I received a demo cassette of this track in 1999, and it's one of the highlights on this album and perhaps also the most complex thing they've ever recorded. "Pulse?" is another really interesting track, which shows the drummer in full performance. On this track it becomes obvious that the drummer is a highly technical master on his instrument.

"Upstairs" is showing a band that has matured and become a lot more experimental since the debut. Keep in mind that this is only a cassette copy. And although there's some dropouts on my cassette and the fact that the sound quality isn't all-professional, this is an astounding example of high-quality Prog Metal from a land we don't often hear any music at all from. I hope I will get the chance to get this album as a proper CD- release some day. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

(The song titles is written in English in this review to make it understandable for the reader, but the vocals and the original song titles are all in the Russian language.)

Report this review (#31690)
Posted Saturday, July 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This band called Azazello is from Russia. This is their second album named Upstairs from 2001. I have to tell this was a big surprise for me, in agood way. They play a really great prog metal with stunning harmonies, complex compositions and lots of changes in rhythm, mood and tempo, im one word awesome. The album sounds very strong because they incorporeted folk, even some jazz elements here and there, and work with a folk band called Divo. All these elements combined is Azazello. To underrated because i think they desearve a better view by prog metal conoseurs. Guitarist Alexandr Kulak is the main man of the band and he has written all the songs of Upstairs. The lyrics are in russian language but in the booklet of the CD are translate in english, because the listners need to have a propper view about the songs. So, the best pieces are all, they have everything to became much more than what are they today, and i mean among the best prog metal bands. I will give to Upstairs without hesitation 4 stars. Not a masterpiece but close enough. The Upstairs album was released by Musea Records in 2001, so that everybody can enjoy this almost forgotten prog metal gem.
Report this review (#159801)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars Russia is the world's largest nation at least in terms of surface area which means that there are a lot of places outside the largest cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Eastern part of the country is remote and hosts only a handful of majorly populated areas and i can only imagine how remote things were before the age of the internet. So what do you do to entertain yourself? Well, it seems like you can booze it up with vodka to pass your day away or you can turn your attention to something more positive like making music and with nothing else to do you can craft some of the most amazingly cool music that sounds like nobody else! That's exactly what the band AZAZELLO did having formed in the small city of Tynda which sits near the Chinese border between Lake Baikal and the eastern port of Vladivostok. Known as a crossroads of two major train routes, it is not known for much else and one of those destinations where the travel agents tell you not to waste your time visiting.

This band originally formed in 1994 under the moniker М.О.Р.Г. and released a demo the same year before changing its name to AZAZELLO which is a demonic character from the novel "The Master an Margarita" by the Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov. Led by singer / guitarist Alexander Kulak, AZAZELLO is one of those progressive metal bands that really knows how to deliver a satisfying album. I'm not sure of the discography exactly as different databases list different albums that precede this one which is titled UPSTAIRS and secondarily Ступени наверх in Russian. Some sources say this is the second album and some say the fourth but whatever the case, it is agreed upon that UPSTAIRS is where the band really hits its stride and found its own unique sound that adopts the intricacies and complexities of progressive rock that play well with the band's mastery of heavy metal.

This is a well crafted album that fuses symphonic prog elements with highly technical thrash metal but manages to keep things really melodic. The intro simply titled "Opening" provides a lush acoustic guitar instrumental to coax the listener into the classical melodies before the title track unleashes the metal. Sounding like a mix of Dream Theater with more adventurous guitar riffs that remind me of Watchtower's guitar gymnastics, AZAZELLO somehow keeps all of the virtuosity on the leash and keeps the melodic flow in tact although there are shifts in tempo, dynamic shifts and different jammy interludes. While only three of the tracks are vocal oriented, they are the more grounding that meaning they provide the melodic riffs and backbone of the album while the instrumental parts are allowed to sail away into the adventure zone however the melody is king on this one as twin guitar attacks and proggy keyboard runs allow at least one instrument to keep the rhythmic drive in tact as well.

In addition to the western influences AZAZELLO adds some of the ethnic Russian folk sounds which give this album an exotic feel which is amplified by the lyrics sung in Russian despite the titles of the tracks appearing in English on the album itself. Kulak delivers some extremely proggy electric guitar runs but his acoustic guitar playing is as lush and pastoral as a neo-prog band whereas the rhythmic bombast of Demitry Bakay on bass and Idris Faridonov on drums are the main providers of jittery detours of tempo deviations and Dream Theater style workouts. Vitos Afanasiev not only provides some excellent keyboard workouts that are in league with the greats like Keith Emerson but he occasionally plays flute, harp and vibraphones to give the album an extra timbral richness during the softer parts and occasionally the band bursts into some jazzier moments but generally speaking this album has virtuosic workouts much in the vein of Dream Theater's "Images And Words" although because of the melodies and folk influences sounds nothing like that album.

UPSTAIRS is one of those albums that's too good to be true. It sports some amazingly beautiful cover art with a set of tracks to match its magnanimous nature. The music is based on classical music so remains extremely melodic but yet has some of the most angular jagged workouts that gives that amazingly satisfying prog gluttony but it's never overdone and when it feels like they may stray too far, the band reverts back to a melodic prog / metal band. The softer elements are perfectly balanced with the heavier ones and the sense of familiarity is perfect balanced with the exotic sounds of the Far East. The musicianship is outstanding and even Kulak's vocals are perfect for the job. Add to that there are enough art rock elements to keep things interesting throughout. This is an amazing gem that i can't give less than 5 stars!

Report this review (#2341254)
Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2020 | Review Permalink

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