Azure Agony – Beyond Belief

Beyond Belief, the debut album by obscure Italian band Azure Agony, is the best example I’ve heard recently of how diverse the genre of Progressive Metal is. It encompasses a wide range of musical styles, from frantic and heavy to light and symphonic. I guarantee that you won’t ever be bored listening to the album, as the music is varied enough to stay fresh throughout its entirety. I find myself enjoying the album more and more each time I listen to it – the band has a great blend of creativity and skill, and Beyond Belief is both unique and impressive.

Azure Agony’s musical style can be split into two distinct categories: metallic and melodic. Each is present in every song, and each song switches fairly frequently between the two. It’s not uncommon for any song to dive suddenly from a light piano melody into a heavy guitar riff. Unfortunately, while the wide range of genres is one of the album’s best qualities, it also acts as its largest flaw. The biggest problem I have with Beyond Belief is that the transitions simply don’t work very well. I’m reminded of Opeth in some ways – anyone who has listened to Opeth is familiar with the quick switches between melodic singing and death metal. The problem is that Opeth executes these transitions with a certain finesse that Azure Agony lacks. The sudden switches between heavy and melodic come off as indecisive sometimes, which is a shame because both are very good. Both sides of Beyond Belief’s music are performed incredibly, but they don’t merge together as well as they should. I’m hopeful, however, that the idiosyncrasies in style are due to the fact that Beyond Belief is the band’s first album, and will be smoothed out for their next release. In my recent interview with Gabriele Pala (Azure Agony’s guitarist), he stated that on their upcoming album the “atmosphere changes… will be less… quick,” so it seems that they are aware of the issue and it won’t be a problem in the future.

As I stated before, each of the album’s styles is executed well in its own right. The musicians are all very capable of adapting to different genres. Most notable among the instruments are the keyboards, played by Marco Sgubin. Beyond Belief contains a wide array of synthesizers, and Sgubin often drives the melody in a way is not very common in Prog Metal. There’s a notable keyboard presence throughout the album that is nothing short of excellent. The guitar, as well, is excellent – played by Gabriele Pala, the guitar parts are incredibly varied, and, as I said before, will never leave you bored. I feel bad for not having much to say about Carlo Simeoni, the drummer. The drum part is very, very good, but I’m not much of a drum person and can’t really tell you anything further than that. Marco Firman, the bassist, is also very skilled. Unfortunately, the bass doesn’t come through as often as I’d like. This is, I’m sure, an incredibly nitpicky complaint – as a bassist myself, I felt that the bass was a little too low in the mix. Firman is, however, fantastic when he comes through, and there are a few melodic bass riffs throughout the album that I enjoyed immensely.

I’ve said pretty much all there is to say – Beyond Belief is fantastic, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Progressive Metal. It has some flaws, but most of them can be attributed to the fact that it is Azure Agony’s first album. I’m looking forward to seeing their future work, and hoping for the best.

Tracklist:

1. Awareness – O:52

2. Mystic Interiors – 5:11

3. Terror Haza – 7:10

4. The Temple of Vandora – 7:31

5. Ante Tentora – 5:31

6. Across Elysian Fields – 4:36

7. The Fall of the Vector – 4:36

8. Secret Getaway – 7:38

9. The Last City – 7:01

Lineup:

*Marco Sgubin – keyboards

*Gabriele Pala – guitar

*Marco Firman – bass

*Carlo Simeoni – drums

Azure Agony’s first CD, Beyond Belief, is available on CDBaby, Masterpiece Distribution and The Omega Order.

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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