Prophet Azal - Elijah Returns
Musical Style: Hard Rock Produced By: Brad Vosburg
Record Label: TTM Records Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2011
Artist Website: Prophet AZAL
Tracks: 11 Rating: 80% Running Time: 33:47
It turns out that you can teach an old dog some new tracks after all. Consider Gypsy Carns, a veteran blues musician with a career that dates all the way back to the sixties. The artist has literally toured the world over the years, bringing his renowned vocal, percussion, 12-string-bottleneck guitar and Dobro abilities to Europe, Japan, China and Israel in addition to releasing 10 albums within the traditional Gospel blues and acoustic folk rock genres. For Elijah Returns, his eleventh album from 2011, Carns decided it was time for change - and this is where that “teaching an old dog some new tricks” comes into play - in terms of both name (to Prophet AZAL) and musical direction (straightforward hard rock).
At this point it must be noted that Elijah Returns is a concept album in which God chooses a Native American musician (AZAL) to reveal the Book of Daniel and its end-times messages. Specifically, the songs are written from this standpoint (with scripture used to validate the lyrics) as Carns takes on the personal of AZAL.
Elijah Returns can best be described as hard rock with a blues heavy edge. With wailing guitars, a big bass sound, thunderous drums and gritty, blues soaked vocals, the group brings a “throwback sound” that reminds me of old school Resurrection Band (think late seventies to early eighties). As a matter of fact, if someone happened to open a time vault and found a long lost Resurrection Band album this is more than likely what it would sound like.
What I appreciate about the project is how the artist - in a manner similar to F.O.G., Rex Carroll Band and Stevie & The Saints - has captured a classic sound without coming across cheesy or dated in the process. Consider “Who Can Stand Alone”, “Change Comin’ Down”, “Am I Immortal” and “I Am Protects Me”, four choice hard rockers that would not sound out of place on Awaiting Your Reply and Rainbow’s End. The albums apocalyptic title track also deserves mention as does blues heavy pieces “Fifth Trumpet Blow”, “Wells Without Water” and “Jesus Gives”. The quality fails to diminish when Prophet AZAL tempers the pace, such as on the ballad “Fallen” and acoustic based “Yahweh, You Are All”.
Word has it that Carns worked 18 months on the songs here with the effort paying off in a remarkably consistent album- there is not a filler track among the bunch. That being said, the lone complaint is that the songs, for the most part, are on the short side of things, with the majority coming in at around the three minute mark. Not that this holds the project back, but a couple in the 4 to 5 minute range might have brought a needed element of variety to the album.
Prophet AZAL is actually not a one man project but rather a three piece band, with Carns (vocals, guitars and power slide) joined by Michael Brignardello (bass) and Greg Morrow (drums). Vocally, Carns brings a gravelly and blues drenched vocal style that reminds me of Glenn Kaiser (Resurrection Band) or Steve Olson (Stevie & The Saints). To say that he aligns perfectly with the music at hand would be an understatement.
He is also a monster slide player in decorating the albums with his gritty - and at times fiery and emotional - licks and chops (his signature Dobro playing and Peavy Power Slide abilities are unparalleled). The guy would give the Rez Band guitar team of Kaiser and Stu Heiss a serious run for their money.
Production comes across slightly raw, but in no way take this as a complaint in that the rougher sounds here help add an extra element of life and vitality to the project. It has been my experience, keeping this in mind, that too much polish can potentially detract from the natural energy inherit to music of this capacity.
Lyrics also prove a throwback with their bold and upfront stance. While following the albums concept loosely, they are based mostly around relevant end-times themes and scenarios. As a matter of fact, there is an almost apocalyptic feel to the project that hints at ArkAngel’s Warrior.
Track By Track
Opener “Who Can Stand Alone” brings three minutes of angst, starting to narration but proving a heavy hitter its remaining distance with a driving chorus and plenty of blues drenched guitar work. Quintessential classic hard rock would be the best way to describe this one. Lyric snippet:
Hear the Word of the Great I Am
Heaven & Earth abide
My Son cometh in a timely state
To cleanse and kill and annihilate
This book of life my Son will read
Pray your name appears
If not I know you will bleed
Your soul will disappear
“Change Comin’ Down” hits even harder with the more forthright guitar sound. Bludgeoning drums drive this one while, once more, the chorus strikes a decisive blow with a dogged emphasis. A searing stretch of lead guitar rounds things out.
“Fifth Trumpet Blow” starts quietly to guitar feedback prior to slowly building momentum. The song proceeds to advance at a staunch mid-paced tempo while maintaining an entrenched blues heavy mindset. The only thing constructive to note is that this one is a bit short at just over two and a half minutes.
Quiet and tempered, “Fallen” highlights an acoustic laced sound in reflecting some light ballad touches. The eerie and haunting - almost sublime - atmosphere aligns with the exhorting nature of the lyrics at hand:
Fall asleep my prophets, dream well
Daniel’s scroll is opened, now foretell
Freedoms lips are kissing me
Yet I feel deaths embrace
Pastors please each other, life goes on
Churches soon discover truth has gone
Holy Spirit cries
Classic blues rocker “Jesus Gives” reminds me of Glenn Kaiser Band. Yes, the song might be on the short side of things (2:16), but with plenty of scratchy slide guitar and a lively, upbeat tempo, you will be returning time and again.
“Wells Without Water” maintains the bluesy proclivity but with more of a hard rocking edge. Also up-tempo, the song reinforces plenty of catchy hooks and pronounced bass line along with lyrics warning against preachers that compromise their message:
You teach a lie with a smiling face
Deny Christ and His grace
You lack truth and direction
You lost the Lord and His protection
You interpret Gods Word without eyes
It’s your opinion, your words are lies
Worldly wisdom you are proud of
Divine knowledge comes from above
“Am I Immortal” hits hard- as in Rez Band style hard. Think old school as in “Alienated”, “ The Wolfsong” or “City Streets” with their driving and hard rocking guitar riffs. All the while Prophet AZAL mixes in its characteristic blues based sensibilities.
“Yahweh, You Are All” also hints of Rez Band but this time a quieter side to the group. In other words, this time consider more acoustic laced tracks such as “Irish Garden”, “Golden Road” and “Concert For The Queen” but with a leaning towards the more worshipful.
Back to hard rock with “I Am Projects Me”, an intensely driven number with a brusquely done chorus and bluesy slide guitar mixed with churning hard rock guitars. Carns is in his natural element here with his gruff vocal flavorings. Lyric snippet:
When I’m feeling low- don’t know where to go
Someone’s there for me
I just close my eyes, face up to the skies
The Lord is my purity
Depression is a word we speak
When were feeling weak
Can’t live up and need relief
That’s when God’s around, keepin’ us safe and sound
All it takes is some belief
“Kevin’s Law” is as straightforward as it gets. No, not the albums catchiest but solid nonetheless in that the band delivers its trademark stalwart mentality and determined low-end groove. Fans of F.O.G. will find a lot to like here.
The albums title track is its longest at 3:43. Every bit as heavy as it is catchy, “Elijah Returns” kicks up a precipitous storm with its impetus based riff action and chorus hook of a gripping capacity. Closing things out is more narration reflecting the albums apocalyptic theme at hand. Lyric snippet:
Elijah Returns – Fire falls from the sky
Heavens rumble – mountains crumble
Voices heard on high
Elijah Returns – The Day of our Lord
Rain and wind – Jesus descends
Riding with His sword
That Lamb is a Lion, Atop Mount Zion
Jesus is coming back…
In a scene literally awash with power-progressive-epic-symphonic-death-doom-thrash-fill-in-whatever-blank-you-want metal bands I find the straightforward hard rock of Prophet AZAL a refreshing change of pace. I guess you could describe the group as bringing both something new and old musically from this standpoint. Elijah Returns, at the same time, proves you can teach an old dog some new tricks, albeit those on the heavier and harder rocking side of things!
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Who Can Stand Alone” (3:03), “Change Comin’ Down” (3:01), “Fifth Trumpet Blow” (2:42), “Fallen” (3:13), “Jesus Gives” (2:16), “Wells Without Water” (3:12), “Am I Immortal” (3:35), “Yahweh, You Are All” (2:41), “I Am Protects Me” (3:24), “Kevin’s Law” (2:53), “Elijah Returns” (3:43),
AZAL – Lead Vocals, Guitars & Peavey Power Slide
Michael Brignardello – Bass
Greg Morrow - Drums