SONS OF AZRAEL
"Scouting the Boneyard"

(Ironclad/Metal Blade)

01. Welcome to the World
02. Mr. Macabre
03. Arson & Apathy
04. Scouting the Boneyard
05. The Grand Design
06. A Numbing Flood
07. The Left Hand Path
08. Howl of the Antichrist
09. Touched By God
10. Frozen In Time

RATING: 3.5/10

"Irksome," "awkward," and occasionally "embarrassing" are the words that kept coming to mind during listening sessions with "Scouting the Boneyard" by Buffalo's SONS OF AZRAEL. Much of that has to do with the far-too-literal and usually cartoonish anti-Christian/Satanic lyrics, which made it difficult to take the otherwise average black and melodic death metal — performed with an obviously metalcore-based vibe — seriously.

Lyrically raking the anointed one over the coals is not the issue per se or most of us would never spend time piercing eardrums with any number of black or death metal bands, nor is it absolutely necessary that the venom spat be that of high minded poetry and challenging metaphorical prose. It is just that the lyrics of "Scouting the Boneyard" are so literal as to seem disingenuous and downright goofy, like the boys are just trying too hard to be blasphemous. It is not even comical and/or over the top in a fun way, as is the case with so many gore metal bands. When the up-in-the-mix, raspy BM vocals of Joe Siracuse enter the mix and he utters phrases like "You may not think it's true, but he's abandoned you" ("Welcome to the World") or "there's not much more you can say, you're already dead anyway" ("The Left Hand Path") the forehead wrinkles, the eyes squint and you'll catch yourself mouthing "ouch." The worst of it comes during "Mr. Macabre" (as in "you may never survive a visit from Mr. Macabre") with a set of lyrics that are just plain insulting to the ears. The numerous occasions where Siracuse simply follows the riff patterns doesn't help.

Once the mind is cleared of the lyrical detritus, which is no easy feat, one hears some halfway workable black metalcore and modern melodic death. The BM harmonies, rhythmic gallops, and sections of pure bludgeon will not always turn heads, but are usually tolerable and sporadically lacerating. For example, the up-tempo break during which a solo rips through the air on "Welcome to the World" and even the cadence on "Mr. Macabre" approach levels of molten lava hotness. There is not enough here musically to legitimately shock and awe, but at least it keeps the album from (just barely) being a complete failure. As it stands, the negatives far outweigh the positives. I'm still wincing at the thought of those lyrics.

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