[Click play above to stream Albez Duz’s Wings of Tzinacan in full. Album is out Oct. 28 via Listenable Records.]
In its use of Aztec language (actually Nahuatl) as well as its cover art and sound, Wings of Tzinacan is very much a follow-up to Albez Duz‘s 2014 sophomore outing, The Coming of Mictlan (review here). Released as their first through Listenable Records, it finds the Berlin-based cult rockers working as a trio, with founding drummer/multi-instrumentalist Eugen Herbst (ex-Dies Irae) and vocalist Alfonso Brito Lopez having brought on guitarist Julia Neuman — they’ve done live shows as a five-piece, and also currently list David Petersen as a full-time member, so the situation seems in some flux — and further codifying the gothic themes of the preceding record in a way that draws their various stylistic sides together into one cohesive statement.
That statement comes loaded with echoing spaces, weighted groove, righteously dark melodies, top-grade organ work on songs like “Our Lord the Flayed One,” and adds up to an eight-track/51-minute excursion into murk that calls to mind Type O Negative and The Butterfly Effect-era Moonspell as much as Paradise Lost while still retaining an identity of its own in its sense of atmosphere, depth of mix and arrangement flourish. More perhaps than its predecessor, Wings of Tzinacan — the word translates to “bat” — steps forward with a singular idea of what it wants to do. Where The Coming of Mictlan explored a range of ideas, and Wings of Tzinacan operates similarly, the third album moves ahead from the second by having those ideas push further toward a singular emotional and sonic expression.
All of that said, I don’t necessarily think one has to have heard The Coming of Mictlan, which was released through Iron Bonehead and Archaic Sounds, to appreciate what Albez Duz have on offer here. Lopez delivers a striking performance in classic metal frontman fashion, and the instrumental arrangements behind him — from the full-toned headbang roll of second track “Reflections” through the calling bats of “Tzinacan’s Rising” to the grueling desolation of the penultimate “Death Whistle,” in which volume ebbs and flows but the lurching sense of agony remains constant — engage with both their diversity of approach and how that approach never veers from the mission of best serving the song at hand and the album as a whole. Each half of Wings of Tzinacan begins with its longest track, and while I’m not sure exactly of the vinyl structure — that is, as a 51-minute CD/digital stretch, it’s possible one or two songs don’t appear on the LP for time constraint — the immersion both of them bring about helps set up what the ensuing portion of the record has to offer.
With opener “The Uprising,” the metallic chug prominent early in its 9:44 run builds in intensity but gives way toward the midsection to reunion-era Celtic Frost-type malevolence, slower, meaner, wider, and the arrival of keys signals a transition into a longer atmospheric break. Satisfyingly, they return to the central riff before finishing out, and in accord, “Reflections” and “Our Lord the Flayed One” both offer a blend of straightforward-ish hooks and grand-in-the-presentation downer atmospherics — the latter delving into extreme metal growls and shred late while still keeping a relatively moderate tempo; a fascinating meld rarely so fluidly executed — before the quieter, mournful organ of “Innocence Gate” begins a turn toward some of the broader-reaching material that “Sacred Flame” (the longest inclusion at 9:46) will establish as the course for Wings of Tzinacan‘s unfolding side B.
“Innocence Gate” is also a transition in a sense of how it plays out with the songs surrounding, and by that I mean how it picks up from “Our Lord the Flayed One” and leads into “Sacred Flame.” Where “The Uprising,” “Reflections” and “Our Lord the Flayed One” stand alone and certainly each cut has its personality, particularly as the album progresses and particularly on repeat listens, “Innocence Gate” begins a conversation that “Sacred Flame” continues — Lopez reminding of Amorphis‘ Tomi Joutsen in his delivery — by building momentum to lead through the bats-notwithstanding instrumental “Tzinacan’s Rising,” the growling horrors of “Death Whistle” and closer “Omen Filled Season,” which in a mirror of what “The Uprising” itself did before it was done, seems to go back toward a more straightforward (again, -ish) push to finish out. It’s this whole-album mentality that Albez Duz so successfully convey this time around and which, if one was to speculate on a direction for future evolution of the band, seems the most likely candidate.
There is, as for everyone all the time everywhere, room to go further, but Wings of Tzinacan gracefully balances diversity of approach with overarching intent and leads its listeners down a grim path without wholly losing itself in indulgences or letting its theatrical elements take away from the impact the material is clearly meant to have. In clarity and in the sureness of the hands guiding it, it is very much a third full-length, but Albez Duz haven’t stopped growing yet and I wouldn’t expect them to now either.