I was recently lucky enough to hear an exclusive play-through of the forthcoming album from Swedish sludge behemoths Aztakea, and let me tell you, the music world is in for a treat later this year. Which will be all the more welcome considering the existential horror this year has brought the world thus far. Aztakea’s imminent full length, titled The Crawling Chaos, will fit into that world with terrible beauty.
The new album, which the band expects to release on vinyl around the end of August, builds upon the foundation of heavy, fuzz-laden, sadistically distorted blues riffs and swampy production of their 2018 debut EP, the excellent Thanatologisk Blues. This new offering sees the band perfecting their song-writing, the tightness of their rhythmic interplay, and the tone of their delivery and production in crafting an album that showcases all of the strengths of this four-piece while giving away very few flaws.
The opening track slowly rises from a foggy mirth of sinister ambiance like a terrible beast, until its true, weighty might is revealed with powerful, massive riffs and precise, magnificent rythmic pounding. Aztakea’s signature bluesy, fuzzed out riffs are not just another Electric Wizard rip off. There is a definable uniqueness to the band’s attack and delivery that set them apart from a sea of drones (pun absolutely intended). The music evokes a sense of sinister impending doom, frantic anxious dread, and the existential desperation is compounded once the tortured, anguished vocals come in. When vocalist Henrik Östlund screams “Everything turns to shit.” We feel it. We know it. We can’t escape it.
The Crawling Chaos as a whole showcases ever heightening tension built upon repetition and structure accented by complex, roiling percussion patterns. The sound Aztakea puts forth often combines echoes of the sinister darkness of Fister with a sense of melody and bluesy hook reminiscent of Chrch, while never actually sounding like anyone but themselves.
While the opening side of The Crawling Chaos is rife with lush, meaty, and sadistically slow blues-based doom riffs, side B opens with a track that ratchets up the tempo with a furious, crusty hardcore sludge romp before bending back into the monolithic guitars and thunderous percussion of the band’s signature swampy, fuzzed out doom. The music has a particular swampy bent evoking a sense of the American South, despite hailing from Sweden, that might even draw the occasional comparison to genre forefathers Eyehatehod.
Thematically, The Crawling Chaos deals with all-too-relatable subjects like suffering, torment, pain, existential dread, mental illness, nihilism, and coming to terms with life’s inherent lack of meaning or resolution. This makes the excellent sample of the inimitable Rustin Cohle from the first season of HBO’s True Detective all the more poignant. As the album fades out with rough, crackling distorted madness, we are left with the sense that something dark and inherent in our experience of this reality was explored and addressed, but never solved. And perhaps it never should be.
Nicklas Hellqvist – Bass
Karl Jonas Wijk – Drums (also of Pissboiler, Meth Fetish)
Jimmy Blom – Guitars
Henrik Östlund – Vocals (also of Slôdder)
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