Nazxul. Sydney’s black metal forefathers. The name conjures vivid imagery, evokes thought, and recalls memory. Nazxul have been through many triumphs and just as many tragedies. With that said, acknowledging their longevity they’ve been very selective with what they’ve released. Quality over quantity, as the adage goes. Irkalla comes some eleven years after their second full-length Iconoclast. How does it fit amongst the collective’s storied output thus far?
Opener Divine Death begins the ritual with a tolling keyboard before giving way to a sombre passage. Soon tremolo picked sections, furious drumming, and commanding vocals kick in and launch into the track proper. The symphonic elements are still at the fore, instantly recreating that unique Nazxul atmosphere. It’s a snarling, cavernous beast of a track that holds many twists and turns; a fierce statement of intent but also something that provides the most appropriate introduction for what, no doubt, is to come.
Rising Storm begins quietly, leaving the listener in suspense before introducing some choral vocals. Combined with the focused introduction it conveys the track a ritualistic atmosphere. Soon, that gives way to some furious black metal. Showing how in sync the quintet of founding, early, and latter day members just are, the unrelenting fury of Raging Storm more than lives up to its title and almost makes it feel as if Iconoclast was released last year, proving that lengthy gaps have only honed Nazxul’s attack. It alternates between the aforementioned black metal and reflective symphonic-driven passages. Each disparate element works as one in order to create a commanding, powerful soundscape.
Inferno feels as if it’s the birth to the womb of Rising Storm. It’s the shortest and most straightforward piece on offer through Irkalla yet what it lacks in length it makes up for in intensity. Its direct attack allows the vocals to take to the fore as the instruments build a foundation under which they propel the assault.
Closer Stygian offers some sinister ambience to start backed by some tentative vocals. It works well as a prelude to the track proper which soon erupts into a chasm of ripping tremolo picked sections and unrelenting drumming. The vocals soon fade out to a whisper and return the track to its ambient beginnings, offering an all too brief measure of respite. The push/pull approach of Stygian works really well in context to Irkalla itself as the sections where the keyboards take the focus provide a grandiose atmosphere that really helps the longer tracks display some light and shade. All in all, it’s a fine way to close the album.
Nazxul have had a storied career, through which they’ve tended to focus on selective releases. It’s this ethos of quality over quality (as stated above) that seems to drive them. Irkalla is a focused statement; an offering of ritualistic, lengthy tracks that really offer the current Nazxul collective the opportunity to stretch out. To show what they’re capable of, but more importantly carve out something memorable. Irkalla is a fine addition to their discography but also proves that they always have something to give form and focus to. Recommended for fans of Nazxul, black metal, and also for those looking to dwell a bit more within the underground of Australian metal.
- Divine Death
- Rising Storm