This Finnish outfit's name is drawn from the king of the dwarves in J.R.R. Tolkein's mythology who severely wounded the dragon Glaurung, sacrificing himself in order to rescue his warriors. Despite their inspiration's selfless courage, Azaghal are among the more misanthropic fringe bands in all of black metal. Their muddy, sludgy, buzzing sound is the soundtrack to growled and grunted lyrical themes of Satanism, terror, hatred, and war mongering. Since issuing Mustamaa and Helvetin Yhdeksän Piiriä, their debut long players in 1999, they have stubbornly adhered to North European black metal's core aesthetics. They've issued dozens of albums, split recordings, and compilations with a remarkable regularity for an independent band. After their most acclaimed album, 2004's Perkeleen Luoma, they released a series of split offerings with Sael, Krieg, and Black Death Ritual. 2008's Omega was their most commercially successful date and provided an impetus for their first international touring. Their 11th full-length, Valo Pohjoisesta, was issued in 2018 and celebrated by critics as a sterling example of hate-filled black metal.
The story of Finland's Azaghal began when guitarist Narqath and drummer Kalma co-founded an instrumental quartet in 1995. They initially went by the name of Belfegor and released the demo "The Ancient Gods of Evil." They split after discovering another band with the same name. Two years later they re-formed briefly as Nargoventor before changing their moniker yet again to Azaghal with vocalist Varjoherra. This outfit issued a demo that same year. Two more demos followed, alongside the Aftermath-released EP Harmagedon. Their full-length debut, Mustamaa, appeared in 1999. The initial release was a limited run, but later, ISO 666 would pick up the record's option and re-release it. Later that same year, Azaghal recorded their acclaimed second album, Helvetin Yhdeksän Piiriä -- which would be reissued in 2016. Released in December, the album was followed by a pair of splits in 2000. During 2001 the band increased in number again -- adding lead guitarist (and occasional drummer in later years) J.L. Nokturnal -- and recorded the album Of Beasts and Vultures.
Album number three from Azaghal led to a more stable deal with Aftermath, and the band was able to release album number four, Perkeleen Luoma, in 2004. In the wake of positive reviews and decent sales, Azaghal decided to break with their own tradition and perform live. Previously, they credited the drums to "Unhuman Warmachine," a drum machine. To play live they recruited T.M. Blastbeast to helm the kit for Germany's Under the Black Sun Festival. More gigs were on tap for 2005, as well as a move to the Avantgarde Music label in 2006, which would host their albums Codex Antitheus and Luciferin Valo. Chernobog replaced Blastbeat in the drum chair at the end of 2006. In 2008, Azaghal returned to the bleak landscape of black metal with Omega on Moribund. The label would become the band's home for subsequent albums. Varjoherra left the band after Teraphim (2009) and was replaced by bassist/vocalist Niflungr. JL Nokturnal made his final recorded appearance with Azaghal on 2015's Madon Sanat in 2015. He was replaced by Ruho for live shows only. Chernobog, having left three years prior, was finally permanently replaced by Lima. After a pair of split outings, Azaghal issued the limited-edition Valo Pohjoisesta for Immortal Frost Productions, in 2018, delivering more blast furnace-forged horrors to the masses. The following year, Moribund reissued 2002's Of Beasts and Vultures. ~ Chris True