The northern parts of the world tend to forget there is cold also in the desert night. Here lives a people not having a history of violence, oppression and darkness, but still being caught up in it, governments and religion siding, brooding closed societies far from what many Western minds can imagine. It is a place where creating extreme music has risks directly connected to jail, or even death penalty. But to some those risks are still worth taking, as the struggle for freedom never ends. For young generations forbidden tunes seem to be always part of the fight, filling hearts in need of hope and bringing an end to the silence.
Such is the fate of Al-Namrood (SA) , one of the Arabic black metal acts now finding its way out to the rest of the world, being part of a burgeoning new scene, maybe leading to bands from Eastern Europe having to give up their reputation as most extreme, not concerning the use of pigs’ blood and stinking scene paraphernalia, but from the courage needed for expressing one’s opinion. Al-Namrood has been active since 2008 and can be seen as pioneers. It is a gathering of three parts; Mudamer on vocals, Mephisto on guitars, bass and percussion, and Ostron on keyboards and percussion. They have taken their name from King Al-Namrood, also known as Nimrod, according to legend builder of the tower of Babel, rebel against God. To his honour, or for other purposes, they have lyrical themes centred around ancient history and anti-religion. Their second full-length release ”Estorat Taghoot”, translated to “A Legend of Tyranny”, refers to Babylon both in lyrics and cover art. All music on it was recorded in Bahrain, with Mardus as guest vocalist, and originally released in 2010. The style is atmospheric, giving voice to traditional Arabic instruments; the oud, resembling a lute, and the tabla, hand drums played in pairs. This brings an element of folk, but with Middle-Eastern melodies and rhythm, something not often heard in any metal genre.
Already in the opening instrumental “Arousal At Nebuchadnezzar Fortress” it is obvious that this comes from a place far away, filled with mysteries, scented with spices. The strange tunes fills the ears, opening up a darker version of “One Thousand and One Night”. In “Junood Al Amjaad” the beast is unleashed, the instruments wielded with fury, the patterns of melodic layers chaotic at first, yet brilliant when revealing its secrets. The following title track is powerful in its anger, striking in melody, with bright keyboards meeting the traditional oud. As the songs passes by a certain feeling grows, that herein lies a union between worlds, Middle-East meeting West, merging into strength, opening new possibilities. In instrumental piece number two “Ma’dabt Al Audhama”, the Arabian style of the intro is less traditional, filled with heavily distorted guitars riffs and angry drums, a combination blending together into something trance-like and murky. After this it is as if the album catches onto something even darker, the smell of spices fading into fumes of rotten foundations. The pace doesn’t slow down until in “Asda’ Al Dmar”, the keyboards hoovering ghostly above the abyss, like sick sunlight yet feeding hope. “Ajal Babel” gives the album an instrumental finish, driven by guitars, leaving the shadows lurking, the cold desert night echoing with black grandeur.
This is an album challenging to review, since it so easily could be about other things than the music itself. The reference and revolt towards the kind of society Al-Namrood hails from is strong, the political message obvious even for someone not having full understanding of the Arabic lyrics. It gives perspective when thinking of the term extreme, coming from a band we have to support, no matter our favourite genre, if not by buying their music, at least by making them known to the world. But still, the main focus when listening to ”Estorat Taghoot” should be the reinvention, the revival of black metal as many of us think we know it. Because no matter the context, this is great music. It is well executed, hinting towards a long row of classic black metal projects, yet unique and creative. Al-Namrood set out to create Arabian black metal, a gasping thought in both theory and practice, but they have succeeded, making many bands sound less exciting in comparison.
Written by: Navdi
Label: Shaytan Productions (CA) / Format: CD / Cat. #: Qayamat-06
01. Arousal At Nebuchadnezzar Fortress
02. Junood Al Amjaad
03. Estorat Taghoot
04. Ma Kan Mn AlDahr Mundther
05. Endma Tuqsaf Al Ruoos
06. Ma’dabt Al Audhama
07. Fe Youm Thaqeef
08. Wata’a Bakhtanasar
09. Laylat Ghabra’a
10. Asda’ Al Dmar
11. Ajal Babel