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AZAZELLO

Progressive Metal • Russia


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Azazello biography
Formerly a thrash-death metal band known as MORG (as in "Morgue"), the members of Russian prog band AZAZELLO had some fun shocking pop audiences in the early 90's and then completely reinvented themselves. In fact, through the course of three albums, they have almost completely abandoned the metal genre for some truly progressive endeavours. Despite the English title tracks, they sing in Russian (although 90% of their repertoire is strictly instrumental). They are led by vocalist, guitarist and arranger Alexander Kulak who also composes most of the material.

Their first album, "Black Day" (2000), features some complex time signatures and rich instrumental passages, showing influences from metal bands like DREAM THEATER and HAWKWIND. The production, which is a little rough, fortunately improves over the next two albums. On "Upstairs", released a year later, the DREAM THEATER influence is almost completely gone as the band becomes more experimental, alternately flirting with jazz, funk, neo prog and even Russian folk. "The Wings" (2002) is their most mature effort to date and treats the listener to about half a dozen genres and sub-genres, some tracks taking on clearly symphonic, at times even jazzy overtones. Although there's certainly nothing the slightest bit wimpy about this cd, it's not even remotely death metal anymore; it has a rich musical palette and features some much improved vocals, musicianship and a much better production. The weak points: the band still seems to lack a bit of character and could perhaps do with a little more emotion, or else come up with more effective melodies.

Recommended if you like well-executed prog Ó la QUEENSRYCHE and DREAM THEATER.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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AZAZELLO discography


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AZAZELLO top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.33 | 3 ratings
Too Late
1995
4.20 | 5 ratings
Airhead
1996
3.88 | 12 ratings
Black Day
2000
4.39 | 18 ratings
Upstairs
2001
3.31 | 7 ratings
The Wings
2002
3.71 | 7 ratings
The Wings (2002-2003)
2003
4.00 | 19 ratings
Seventh Heaven
2004
3.14 | 14 ratings
Transformation
2011
4.07 | 30 ratings
MegaDream
2013

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AZAZELLO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Upstairs by AZAZELLO album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.39 | 18 ratings

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Upstairs
Azazello Progressive Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator 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!

 MegaDream by AZAZELLO album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.07 | 30 ratings

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MegaDream
Azazello Progressive Metal

Review by Igorex

5 stars One of two long awaited albums of second half of 2013 for me - Megadream by Azazello (the second one is The Theory Of Everything by Arjen Lucassen, which is in charts already). The album is allowed only in MP3 version yet and can be downloaded from website of producer company. Final release was scheduled to 20th of november, so I will receive my copy with author's sign directly from distant Tynda only by the end of 2013...

The music of album is a set of various progressive rock/metal (I'm looking to album music from prog-rock side) compositions, which are united by common mystic story. Despite of all their differences, each piece shows the recognizable Azazello sound style which consists of heavy guitar riffs of band's lead guitar player Aleksandr Kulak, gentle acoustic guitar playing of band leader Kulak Aleksandr, huge significance of gorgeous keyboard passages, enchanting russian folk music tunes (which are the main sparkle of track entitled Across the Frontier), and of course complicated drum breaks and scales which are different not only from 4/4 but even from 3/4. All these points together form the true and unique musical language of the band.

Beginning from previous Azazello album "Transformation" released in 2011 after long-time break, Yann Zhenchak from Belarus became lead singer of the band. Having the most powerful voice timbre, he uses both clear voice and growl in this record. He also plays violin sometimes when he isn't singing.

As in previous album all drum parties in Megadream were played by talented drummer Vladimir Demakov (who suddenly died in october of 2011). It needs to say that growing complexity of music since Transformation and conceptual storyline of Megadream make drum parties much more complicated and professional as you can notice hearing hi- hats/cymbals nuances e.g. in track Nothing But A Shade.

Besides the musical component of the masterpiece I'd like to say couple of words about thing which is necessary for any serious progressive-rock work in our time. I mean album art. The full set of fantastic illustrations, posters and covers along with 3D video on Carnal Caravan have been created by Ed Unitsky - well known prog-related artist who has worked with many musicians and bands in the genre.

All in all, Azazello has weaved another one spider's web to catch both old and new fans: this is the album where heavy sound has interlaced with beautiful lyrical pieces of music and even with atmospheric tracks played with synthesizers and Yann's violins, growl has adjoined with clean vocals and choir parts, electric guitar riffs have been dressed in delicate piano laces, fusion-fashioned MiniMoog solo (Carnal Caravan) sounds over highspeed blastbeats and russian folk music flows near blue-notes and screamy guitar solos. So it seems I'm deeply in the web already because it is a third day I'm hearing the album without stopping since I've downloaded it.

I'm sure Megadream album is how contemporary russian rock music should look like... and doesn't matter this release is in english because it's going to be special version with russian lyrics and some additional things, as authors say.

 MegaDream by AZAZELLO album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.07 | 30 ratings

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MegaDream
Azazello Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars Many years ago I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of Azazellos' third album, 'Black Day' and I was mightily impressed. A while later I was sent a copy of their seventh album and again I really enjoyed it. So when I saw that Kerry Kompost had guested on their newest album then I knew that I had to grab a copy. Unfortunately drummer Vladimir Demakov, passed away in December of 2011 so he never got to hear the fruits of his labours, but he would be pleased to know that his mates had done him proud. Led by multi-instrumentalist Alexandr Kulak, along with Vladimir Kulak (keys) and Yan Zhenchak (vocals), this is a band that apparently have no understanding of boundaries and are happy to play whatever pleases them, so if that means coming across as Metallica on one song then all power to them. These guys can really riff when they want to, with more than a hint of Voivod about them, but they are way more than just a fancy metal band and bring in folk and more overtly progressive influences to create something that isn't quite Western, not quite Russian, but always interesting and compelling, much in the way that Dream Theater used to be, but with more instrumentation (the violin is particularly effective)

Kerry is not the only guest on the album, with Misha Ogorodv (Pierre Moerlen's Gong) and Bill Berends (Mastermind) also making their presence felt. I was fortunate one night to catch Mastermind in concert, and by the end of the gig my jaw hurt as it had been hanging open most of the night in awe. Those guys can play, really play. That is the same for all those involved here, as we morph and move all over the place, but a special mention should be made of 'Run In Parallel (Leo)' which is the first time I have heard a happy baby over the top of an acoustic guitar! This is an album with real depth, and the more I have played it the more I have enjoyed it. Yet another outstanding album from Azazello, well worth discovering. To hear a sample or to download digitally then visit melodicrevolutionrecords.com/album/megadream

 Transformation by AZAZELLO album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.14 | 14 ratings

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Transformation
Azazello Progressive Metal

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Azazello's fifth studio album named Transformation from 2011 is another worthy prog metal release from their catalogue. I know them since they relased Upstairs in 2001 and since then I'm with an eye on their music being quite pleasent surprised. This is good prog metal with all the ingredients must have this type of album, complex passages, great interludes between guitar and keyboards and an ok voice sung in russian. Pieces like Clock Face or To win are great Azazello prog metal pieces for sure. Well, to me their best album remains Upsairs but aswell Seven heaven or this one are close. 3 stars in places 3.5 , for fans of Symphony X or DT. Good prog metal band that is very often to low appreciated.
 Transformation by AZAZELLO album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.14 | 14 ratings

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Transformation
Azazello Progressive Metal

Review by baz91
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Azazello's latest album 'Преображение' (or 'Transformation' in English) is the sixth album by the Russian group, which consists of Alexander Kulak, Vladimir Kulak, Vladimir Demakov and Vladislav Chala. The album is naturally sung in Russian, making understanding of the album impossible to English listeners (like myself). For this reason, I can only remark on the experience of listening to this album.

The music on this album is your standard mix of metal combined with some prog influences. I hear strong Uriah Heep influences on Enchantress, and Phoenix seems to play out rather like Dream Theater's Hollow Years. Sadly, besides the Russian lyrics, there's nothing very unique about this album. Everything you hear here on this disc can be heard somewhere else, and would probably sound better. Nevertheless, Azazello have definitely released something with artistic merit.

Perhaps the main fault with this album lies in the mixing. When I think of prog rock, I think of very fine music, like Firth of Fifth and Heart Of The Sunrise. In my opinion, none of the tracks on this album are 'fine'. The mixing, though not awful, just doesn't seem quite right. Often the instruments will sound like they aren't being played together, or one instrument will sound much louder than another. This doesn't ruin the album, but seriously hinders my enjoyment.

When listening to Italian progressive music, I've found that I don't need to understand the lyrics in order to enjoy the music. After listening to this album, I can say that the same does not hold for Russian music. I can't even tell if this is a concept album or not! Whilst being technically competent, the band do not impress me with their musical style. In summary, this is an album that's not very pleasant on the ears, and is really for fans only.

 Transformation by AZAZELLO album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.14 | 14 ratings

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Transformation
Azazello Progressive Metal

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Russian band AZAZELLO was formed in early 1995 as a side project for the members of thrash metal act Morg. They have four full-fledged official releases to date, the most recent of these being "Seventh Heaven" from 2004. "Transformation" marks the fifth chapter in their history as recording artists, and was released by the Russian label MALS Records in the fall of 2011. Existing fans might also note that this is the first production featuring what appears to be a brand new line-up.

While Azazello as a band might not be purebred innovators of their chosen genre, their skill in utilizing gritty intensity on one hand and subtle stylistic details on the other make this album well worth experiencing. Fans of Dream Theater and Symphony X will most likely be the key audience for this production, and I presume many of those will find this CD to be a nice addition to their music collection.

 Seventh Heaven  by AZAZELLO album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.00 | 19 ratings

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Seventh Heaven
Azazello Progressive Metal

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Here is my second review on an Azazello album. The first was almost 2 years ago on their second release Upstairs from 2001. This time I will talk about their fifth studio album, not including their very early works, more like a demo or EP. So here is Azazello - Seventh heaven album release in 2004 at Starless records. I was very pleasent surprised when I listening from the very first to this band and I m very impressed now , again. Everything here is top notch, from the musicianship, who is BTW the strongest you can imagine on a prog metal band, really solid interplay between musicians, quite remarcable skills on each musicians, and above all very good and inovative ideas, not an every day album in prog metal zone, at least for me. I don't really know why they are so unknown in prog circles, they are simply amazing, keeping in mind that theu are coming from Russia, a place where to tell the truth is not a prog metal paradise. Anyway Azazello, did it again with this album, long instrumental passages, very well played, intristing and solid arrangements, that shows everything but DT clones. Very good band, quite unnoticed by the large public and is a shame because they really mean bussines in this domeiin. Great compositions, very lenghty, from the 7 pieces, only the first and last are shorter, the rest are all above eight min long. As I sais, very good instrumental passages, the keyboards have an important role with very clear and beautiful executions, Vitos Afanasiev is a really good musicin, not to mention the guitarist another example of profesionalism and good attitude. Every single piece is a winner in my ears, great album, maybe at same leverl with Upstairs, the best they done so far, this Seventh heaven is near. I will give 4 stars easy, one of the most enjoyble bands from prog metal, at least for me, who tries and most of the time succeded to come with something unusual in this field, not just followers like many bands. Recommended for sure, great and fresh band in my opinion who deasearve a wider recognition. Excellent this russians.
 Upstairs by AZAZELLO album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.39 | 18 ratings

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Upstairs
Azazello Progressive Metal

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

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.
 Black Day by AZAZELLO album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.88 | 12 ratings

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Black Day
Azazello Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars If I had listened to this, but had not been told the country of origin I may just have guessed it, but by no means would it have been a certainty. Opener "Beginning Of The End" has a very brisk melody, and some good guitar work but there are also places where it is almost like a Gregorian chant. Yes, Azazello is a prog band from Russia!

I don't know how Brian managed to hear about them in California, but this intriguing release is out on the Moonchild label. And a bloody interesting release it is as well. It is very rocky in places with the guitar being very much the lead instrument, while at others it is the keyboards, but what is so interesting about the whole album is the way that the guys keep switching styles many times, even within the same song. They have also brought to bear some Russian touches as well as the more obvious influences such as Dream Theater and QŘeensryche. It is an album that has a definite sound all of its' own and is one that many progheads are going to seek out just because it has a novelty which is all too rare in these days of progressive soundalikes.

I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to this most progressive of releases

Feedback #58, May 2000

 The Wings by AZAZELLO album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.31 | 7 ratings

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The Wings
Azazello Progressive Metal

Review by Prog-jester
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Ex-death-metal band, AZAZELLO was one of the first from the Russian Prog bands I chanced to hear. "The Wings" odyssey split into dozen tracks reminding me of early FATES WARNING - a bit too complex sometimes , ruining the whole atmosphere..."The Sun" is pretty melodic radio-friendly ballad, closer to DREAM THEATER's ones. Recommended mostly to Prog Metal collectors - AZAZELLO definetely has sound of its own, but this is not their best album.Sadly it's the only one I happen to find - I hope to find the recent one soon.
Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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