Amalekim – Avodah Zarah Review

2023 hasn’t been the best year for black metal. With some scattered, notable exceptions—DHG and Manbryne among them—most new releases have been underwhelming, or at least disappointing. Undeterred, I continue to pick promos bearing the ‘black metal’ tag, because I believe the genre, at its best, is captivating in a way others aren’t, and offers a flavor of expression unique to itself. As we approach the sunset of the year, my persistence has paid off with the arrival of Avodah Zarah, the sophomore record from Polish/Italian outfit Amalekim. Imagine some ideal mixture of early GaereaMgła, Gevurah, and the aforementioned Manbryne, and you’re some way towards understanding how this sounds. The band’s claims to have turned a corner in musical maturity from their debut HVHI are not just empty words for promo material. It is very evident how big a leap beyond that predecessor this exemplifies.

Avodah Zarah sits assuredly on the side not just of good black metal, but good extreme metal generally by capitalizing on the electric, ethereal capabilities of strong tremolo melodies, smokey atmospheres, and vivacious, gripping tempos. While lyrics, as usual, remain obscured, the feeling is clear as day, as burning refrains and group howls ring out across the soundscape, and moaning chorals fade in and out, emphatic pauses and sudden surges bringing the latent drama to a head. Spanning the sinister (“Psalm I – Avodah Zarah,” “Psalm VII – Hallel LeQuayn”) to the folky (“Psalm IV – Tzel Hakarah”) environs of the subgenre, the record never loses a certain lamenting, nihilistic tone that yet manages to be uplifting in that strange way minor melodic metal can be. Amalekim successfully channel the darkness and direness of the occult-inspired “inversion of values” around which the album revolves by simply making incredibly compelling, emotionally resonant music.

Avodah Zarah by Amalekim

What makes Avodah Zarah so strong is the organic way allure and confrontation coexist, such that the music is both beautiful and bitter. The most obvious way Amalekim achieve this is through melody, with a powerfully melancholic aura pervading every note. Refrains such as those ripping through “Psalm II – Efes Sefirah,” and “Psalm VI – Litfos Atziluth” are striking in their passion and vivacity, as well as their ability to stick firmly in one’s mind. Others—”Psalm I…,” “Psalm III – Olam Teshuvah”—are gripping in their intensely mournful bent. The twain meet frequently, in the screaming riffs that explosively develop the rueful theme of “Psalm III…” and the feverishly fluttering tremolo I don’t have the musical vocabulary for, that leads the climax of “Psalm IV…,” exemplifying gracefully that sweet spot of exquisite urgency. But the melodies are only half the story, because it’s the shifting energy of this thing that gives it its dramatic rises and falls, enabling those riffs to aggressively race or sulkily pace around the listener. Blastbeats and d-beats (“Psalm V – Litrof Rekanut,” “Psalm VII”) erupt and turn on a dime from tripping march to charge, whipping the tremolos to a manic, spinning dance (“Psalm IV,” “Psalm VI”). Measured by balanced lingering in slow, creeping atmospheres (“Psalm III, “Psalm VII”), the speed feels earned, just as it also benefits from the dynamic drumming, and impassioned, wailing howls.

All of this works all the better because it converges into a whole that feels very dramatic in a convincing way. Arising through the aforementioned natural, narrative-seeming ebbs and flows of emotional melody and tempo, drama also seeps in with the restrained inclusion of ritualistic singing (“Psalm I”), samples of crying (“Psalm V”), and frequent slides into stripped-back spaciousness. What’s exciting, though also somewhat frustrating, is the little hints of something truly bleak, in the most perfect way possible. The opening of “Psalm III” took me totally by surprise on first listen, with a goosebump-inducing breathy atmosphere, cut by harrowing, gurgled screams that reminded me of the darkest side of The Silver. I would have liked more like “Psalm III,” but I can’t fault the record for not indulging me, because Amalekim seem to have struck an ideal balance to tell the story they want to, and the energy of Avodah Zarah is pitched just right.

With Avodah Zarah, Amalekim have convincingly proved that melodic black metal has tons more to give. This is beautiful and vicious, and compelling as anything—all the more so thanks to a blessedly clear master from none other than Gabriele Gramaglia. If you need your faith renewed, look no further than here.

Rating: Great
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Avantgarde Music
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 3rd, 2023

The post Amalekim – Avodah Zarah Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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