Formed in 1998 by Xaphan and Xul (and known initially as Azazel), Kult ov Azazel has been terrifying and brutalizing South Florida’s scene with their distinctive black metal for nearly two decades.
Over the years, Xaphan has played in many other bands, ranging from metal to punk. But as the sole founding member in this incarnation of Kult ov Azazel, he’s in a unique position as a witness to Florida metal’s more recent past.
We at New Times had a chance to catch up with him in anticipation of this weekend's co-headlining show with San Antonio’s Hod at Churchill's Pub in Miami. The topics: South Florida’s scene, death-metal personnel changes, and the meaning of "USBM."
New Times: In one form or another, you’ve been a part of South Florida’s metal scene for some time now, what are your thoughts on it from when you first got into it to now.
Xaphan: Quite a lot has changed. When we first started out 17 years ago there weren’t many good, real metal bands around. Real, meaning heavy and underground. We played shows in the beginning with other bands that we didn’t even match up with but back then we were young, hungry, and willing to play live as much as possible. I have since seen quite many great bands pop up and by 2005 whenever we did play out locally, it was with bands that we fit better with as far as billing goes. So lots of talent has sprung up since our beginnings. The scene has definitely grown.
Back in 2013, New Times ran a list of your top ten Florida metal bands. Any changes to that list since?
Nope. Still stand by that list.
What do you think it is about Florida, and specifically Tampa and Broward County, that have contributed to the continued existence of metal?
I guess it’s because of what was happening in Tampa and South Florida some 25 years ago with the outbreak of what has become known as “death metal.” A lot of the bands back then were based or relocated from New York to Tampa or the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area. Morrisound Studio played a big part in that, and to some extent Criteria Studios in Miami. That’s how I ended up down here.
What is the current lineup status and how is it working out in comparison to other incarnations of the band?
Currently, the band is myself on guitar and vocals, Hag on vocals, Necrol on guitar, Vastator on bass, and our newest addition, our drummer Azagkur, who was added to the band after our last show in January at Revolution, which just also happened to be Hag’s first show with us on vocals. I added Hag to the lineup last year after he quit his other band, Pact, whom I met when we played together in Pennsylvania at the Wrath of the Goat Festival. I know this will sound cliché, but this is the strongest lineup we’ve had to date. That’s not to take away from past members and their past inputs, but with the addition of Hag, the band, in a live setting, has taken a whole new dynamic. Not to mention Azagkur is a beast behind the kit!
Kult ov Azazel is a black metal band, but there seems to be many different influences in your playing. “Mark of the Devil” is one of my faves and it’s a rager with nuances of operatic and melodic metal with tinges of grind and power violence. My music journalism verbiage aside, what kind of influences does the band have that are brought to the table when composing music?
Being the principal songwriter, my influences are ranging, but I’d say metal and punk, to some extent, are an influence on my writing style. I come from both backgrounds and played in many bands of both genres leading up to the formation of this band.
I believe your last full-length was back in ’09 and there was an EP or a split in ’12, so it’s been a while. What have you been up to since? And what are your recording plans for the near future?
Outside of playing a handful of shows here and there, the band has been going through member changes as I have been trying to get the band back to being a fully functional recording/touring band again. I’ve had two albums worth of material written since the completion of the last album in ‘09. We have dates booked into April and after, so after we are done, we plan to turn our attention to getting those songs I’ve been sitting on recorded and a new album out.
How do you feel about the comparisons between USBM (United States Black Metal) and the rest of the world? Is it really necessary to have the distinction? Stylistically, what would you consider the differences? And is there a better way to differentiate them as genres?
I have no feelings on this subject. There’s no distinction between black metal played by people(s) in Scandinavia, North America, Europe, Asia, and so on. I do not consider Kult ov Azazel a USBM band; in fact, I don’t like the term at all. I know others will disagree with me on that, but I do not identify with most of the black metal coming out of the States nowadays. There’s a very limited amount of bands we have close ties to and they are generally the ones we have been in contact with since the late ‘90s. There’s going to be stylistic differences no matter what the genre may be, look at all the others and the differences between rock, metal, and punk. But we do what we do and remain to stay true to our roots no matter what trends may come and go.
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What is next for the band?
After the Churchill’s show on March 21 we will be going out for a short tour of headlining shows with Moribund recording artists Wormreich and Khaothika from Georgia. We’ll be destroying Chicago, IL on April 3, St. Louis, MO on April 4, Spartanburg, SC on April 5, and Atlanta, GA on April 6. After that we’ll be headlining the Grimscape Festival in Baltimore, MD and are booking a longer run of dates around that. We also have some other tentative Florida dates in the work throughout the year.
Kult ov Azazel. With Hod, Druid Lord, Solstice, Gnosis, and Koroidia. 8 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at Churchill’s Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. Admission costs $15. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.