Al-Namrood - Wala'at review


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Band: Al-Namrood
Album: Wala'at
Release date: June 2020

01. Al Hirah
02. Sahra Yaesa
03. Tabqia
04. Kali Be Mekialain
05. Al Shareef Al Muhan
06. Fasique
07. Aar Al Estibad
08. Alhallaj
09. Wahum Althaat
10. Alqaum

The Metal Archives tell us that, at present, Saudi Arabia can lay claim to one dozen metal bands. Al-Namrood have about as many albums as the rest of them put together.

Al-Namrood are the major metallic export of that particular kingdom, having risked their skins for the sake of musical expression for over a decade now. It probably doesn't need to be said that playing black metal (with a determined antireligious bent) is not going to make you a lot of friends in the Middle East (not that making friends is in keeping with the black metal ethos anyway), so I can't speak for the local scene, but Al-Namrood have built up a decent international following over the years. I've kicked around some tracks in passing, and the band has actually come close to some Metal Storm Awards nominations in the past, but this is the first time I've sat down and paid them their due. While there is certainly some novelty involved due to the circumstances under which a band like this writes and records, Al-Namrood's longevity and notoriety should not be written off as the fruits of empty patronage.

The most obvious musical comparison is early Melechesh, another riveting export of West Asian melodies to the instrumentation and songwriting techniques of black metal, but Al-Namrood are more about impact than finesse, trading the careful melodic craftsmanship and incisive riffing for thicker layers and sloppier aggression. Al-Namrood play black metal out of anger, not for its artistic appeal; this is black metal for the punk crowd, that's for sure, cut loose from the brummagem rituals of Scandinavian black metal and reconnected with the transgressive savagery of origin. Venom and Motörhead riffs collide in three-to-four-minute tracks built around physical menace and volume, coalescing with the frantic delivery into something fierce and repugnant.

That doesn't mean that there's no room for meaningful musical expression, of course; the promotional materials inform me that such traditional instruments as the oud, ney, qanun, and darbuka feature on Wala'at (strings, flute, more strings, and drums, respectively). The warped tonal mishmash of Western and Eastern instruments introduces a kind of dissonance independent of the turbulent performances and the ugly swamp of distortion. They also add another dimension of chaos to Al-Namrood's already-unhinged production; they could be microtonal instruments operating on scales beyond my comprehension, or they could just be out of tune. That's one of the advantages of black metal: sometimes, that stuff doesn't matter. Even the simpler riffs use scales and rhythms not common to Western music, let alone black metal, as you'll hear in tracks like "Kali Be Mekialain."

Al-Namrood's percussion is just as gripping as the melodies, another diverse array of instrumentation that grounds the band in two separate musical traditions at once. Some songs, like "Fasique" and "Alhallaj," sound like they were recorded over a gigantic metal woodpecker or possibly a very tiny helicopter. Meanwhile, vocalist Humbaba sings like a rabid animal, barking out most of the lyrics in a strangulated, mid-range choke-snarl comparable to Raubtier's Hulkoff or a deranged Jonne Järvelä. It's only rarely that he leans fully into the distortion and produces a growl, and you'll almost never hear any of the higher-ranged shrieks familiar to black metal; more often, he ascends into parodic perversions of the prayerful intonations common to Islamic vocal music, most notably on "Sahra Yaesa," where his wild vibrato comes off like a combination of Serj Tankian and Ol' Dirty Bastard.

I don't know enough about Al-Namrood's back catalogue to say where Wala'at falls in relation to past releases, but the unrefined shocks of heavily layered noise running tantivy towards a slow, nasty, swing-doom finale are enough to make this album stand out against (the first half of) this year's metal crop. Perhaps this will be the year that Al-Namrood makes it into the MSAs. Even if it isn't, it's already the year that I start paying attention to them.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 8
Production: 6


Written on 30.06.2020 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 4   Visited by: 52 users
30.06.2020 - 02:49
I just came across this review and tried their music on bandcamp.... I'm not sure how I feel about their music, but it has a unique quality to it; actual anger and dissent.
I'm very interested in philosophy (which religion is a part of it), and this feels like a real "scream" when he screams, with a long built-up history of... damnation.
The ending of "Kali Be Mekialain" is just really good, feels like Arabian music gone rogue.
Thanks for this review, I'll check more of this band
30.06.2020 - 13:35
Out of the middle eastern black metal bands that released an album this year, loving this much more than Seeds Of Iblis. Absolutely love the ferocious vocals.
Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.
03.07.2020 - 18:36
Not their best work, but I really enjoyed it
Be more like Funriz
04.07.2020 - 16:02
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Written by RaduP on 30.06.2020 at 13:35

Out of the middle eastern black metal bands that released an album this year, loving this much more than Seeds Of Iblis. Absolutely love the ferocious vocals.

And bishop of hexen. Ssus i like intro of this review
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