Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Al-Namrood - Kitab Al-Awthan review

Al-Namrood - Kitab Al Awthan

To play this album in context one must first realise that Al-Namrood (allegedly meaning “the non believer”) are a Saudi Arabian “symphonic” death metal band which is in itself remarkable. Next, one must then try to imagine death metal skilfully fused with traditional Middle Eastern folk music. From the opening few bars of “Mirath Al Shar” with its Eastern flavours underpinning the traditional black metal sound, the listener realises that this release is something to pay attention to.

The production of the album is unusual in that the guitars are generally very much in the background and could be argued to benefit from more bass, as could the percussion. The vocals are very much to the fore, which again can often detract from the interplay of East meets West. This is not to say that Al-Namrood are merely a novelty act to titillate Western ears. Percussion and guitar passages combine styles recognizable to Western ears with techniques of assembling music that are unfamiliar, and therefore intriguing to discover. As each track unfolds the visceral energy increases, and the interplay of styles becomes more astounding. Indeed one could even claim that the Eastern elements, in terms of production, are those that are most successful to the atmosphere of the album as a whole. The stand out track for this reviewer at least “Bani La’em” incorporates such disparate cultural elements so successfully, over a rolling riff and frenzied percussion, that the effect is both unsettling and overwhelming.

Whilst taking Middle Eastern influences and incorporating the imagery and culture into death metal may seem as nothing new, there appears to be an authenticity to Al-Namrood that is difficult to manufacture artificially. Hopefully the band will continue to pave the way for releases of this nature in their native setting and go some way to introduce the rest of the world to their sound. Maybe even to be seen at a future WOMAD (World of Music, Art and Dance) festival?

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