14 long years have passed since Australia's cult black metal act released their worthy debut album Totem, but the band has not been completely silent in the interim. Line-up changes, the release of splits and EPs, etc. have done little to sate the cravings. But, I say to you here, it turns out the wait was worth it, because Iconoclast is the greatest Australian black metal album ever produced.
It is only fitting that the current line-up of the band is culled from a who's who of Aussie hopefuls, with members that have been involved with (or are currently involved in) Pestilential Shadows, Drowning the Light, Austere, Rift, Astriaal, Nox Inferi, Battalion and Woods of Desolation, to list a few...thus, Nazxul has become what seems a national collaboration of severe asskicking.
I've been floored by numerous other black metal albums this year, but Iconoclast is the first to be so heavily rooted in symphonic territory. This album manages to capture all the malevolent grace of a 90s masterpiece like In the Nightside Eclipse, yet still maintain its individuality. The metal tracks on the album are separated by a series of symphonic and ambient passages that all evoke mystery and anticipation for the forthcoming soul scorching furor. These are all fetching, the swelling dark strings of "Apoptosis"; the shining ambience of "V"; and the haunting "II" at the forefront. As tasteful as impressive as these intros and interludes can be, the true meat of the album is the punishing, glorious brutality of its black, pulsing heart.
Birthed and bred with Belial
Wode werewolf, worme and scorpion venomous
Lucifer's laid foul fiends face infernal
Sodomy celestial brought unto them
Nazxul does not play complex black metal. The guitars are all simplistic and driving like the primal forces of the universe which collided to create our material reality. The strength lies in the band's ability to create unforgettable, subtle riffs within the roiling mass of symphonic chaos. "Dragon Dispitous" is the first of these tracks, a thundering clamor of hellish barbarity which will have old Emperor/Dark Funeral fanatics prostrate upon altars of nostalgia. The real might lies in that subtle and catchy riff just after the one minute mark. Beautiful. "Black Wings" is a fucking beast from the very opening of its savvy and strangulating chords. A pure black metal holocaust lightly enamored with abyssal atmosphere. Title track "Iconoclast" is a longer piece with crumbling walls of decaying chords and epic bombast. "Set in Array" again opens with a volley of destructive, dense chords which sound simply livid, like a scar to the Netherworld picked open, bleeding fresh daemonic energy into the unsuspecting world above. The final five tracks of the album create an unending river of infectious, glorious filth. The verse riffs of "Stain of Harrow", the depressive "World Oblivion" and the closing, subdued, subterranean orchestration of "Threnody" are all further shining moments, the likes of which you just won't hear elsewhere.
Iconoclast has, in my opinion, become an instant classic the moment the first listener spun the disc. It is really that good. Beyond the amazing songcraft and musical skill of the band, it sounds simply amazing. The intros all reverberate across the dark skies of your imagination, and the metallic core sounds as devastating as anything you have loved in the past 20 years of the form. I do not like to predict an 'album of the year' when I've got months left on the calendar, but you can rest assured Iconoclast will be in heavy contention. You MUST hear this album.
Verdict: Epic Win [9.5/10] (no host ethereal, can withstand)