Azell – Death Control


Husband-and-wife duo, Azell, are famous in their native Kentucky as members of comedic experimental death metal band, Timōrātus. Courtney Napier is a primary school teacher, while David Napier has a talent for art and design. But they identified something missing from their musical ventures in 2022 and decided that their lives would only be complete by forming a death-doom band. Azell is a far cry from their Christian metal roots, and you wonder if their future will see them form a morbid death cult. Death Control is a monstrous slab of noise that revels in its own decay.

Courtney wastes no time sinking into the oxygen-sucking doom metal from the first note of the title-track as you feel your lungs collapsing under the weight of the amp gain. How might we describe her roar? Imagine the desperate pleas of a sailor going down with his ship as the captain parachutes out of the wreckage. The riffs are simple but violent and relentless. A person with no more than ten guitar lessons could master the manoeuvrings on the fretboard. You’ll find the skin on your face straining under the intensity of the noise.

Calling a song ‘A.M.’ will invite speculation. Is this what Courtney experiences in the morning when she must rise for work as an elementary teacher? This song feels like a struggle to preserve one’s life in quicksand. The vocals threaten to burst the eye vessels of their author. Power chords saunter like a mutating virus. ‘Scud’ is even more nauseating. Picture a person being suffocated with a plastic bag wrapped around their head. A second guitar shrieks underneath the fuzz of the main riff like a whistling kettle tuned to a recognisable musical note. Conan are the nearest comparison in this slimy instrumental that forces you into a jumpsuit and asks you to navigate through a narrow underground tunnel.

The overdose of morbidity is the most charming aspect of this record, which means that those with no interest in either doom or death metal will show no enthusiasm for it. “All I feel is pain / All I feel is pain / Looking for the vein / Just a human stain,” roars Courtney on ‘Chemical Chains’. You’d hope that a drug addict’s daily struggles did not feel like a death-doom soundtrack on repeat. The guitars make a rare dash towards the middle of the fretboard in this song, but it offers no respite. That’s the point.

How can one survive side B after being bludgeoned into submission with a smothering vapour of guitar distortion and angry drum grooves? It’s a question that’s easy to answer – more of the same. Somehow this does not feel tedious, either. ‘Wallow’ sounds like it reads. Say goodbye to palm-muting the strings in a metallic crunch when the overdrive hums like an overheated fridge. Here, an atmospheric second guitar lingers like a noxious gas. There’s no holding back on the riffs as David Napier pays homage to his favourite Autopsy records.

Your body can no longer mirror the pessimism of the music after sitting on so much unrealised fatigue. The penultimate track, ‘You Failed Me’, is effective as an energy-sapping meditation forced on you by a coercive sage. Observe how your head starts to loop as if devoid of the muscular functions to stay upright. This song is the meaning of a broken spirit: “You failed me / Waiting, yearning to be free / You failed me / Please just leave me be.” Is this what it feels like to live in a pigsty and roll around in mud all day?

Azell aimed to create a listening experience that makes death more fun by comparison. But don’t let that get in the way of this album’s charms. If you’re a fan of death-doom, you’ll enjoy this record.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 01/03/2023

Record Label: Rottweiler Records

Standout tracks: Death Control, Apocalypse Verdict

Suggested Further Listening: Chestcrush – Vdelygmia (2021), Conan – Evidence of Immortality (2022), Wallowing – Earth Reaper (2023)