Transcending Obscurity Records, 22.09.17
Israeli Arallu celebrates their 20th anniversary this year. Congratulations.
However, the career is just heading out of the starting pit. Getting up and running in international competition is harder in some countries than in other*.
The band is quickly becoming a new house orchestra after coverage of both their previous album, Geniewar, released in 2015, and featured in a retrospective impression in 2016, and the double DVD Middle Eastern Battlefield, and now also full-length number six, simply titled Six.
*Israel has only got about 130 active bands, which is a rather small scene compared to the about 770 bands in Norway. Especially considering that we have 6 times as many active bands here, although they have a 60% larger population. But then again, ¾ of the country's population are Jews according to Wikipedia. In addition, the band also resides in the Israeli city/settlement of Ma'ale Adumim on the West Bank, which is technically an area in Palestine, and there appears to be no registered metal bands in Palestine.
The resemblance to Melechesh before they moved from Jerusalem to Western Europe shouldn't be neglected either.
The band's expression and sound hasn't evolved considerably since Geniewar, although the sound is a notch better. My biggest appeal points are first and foremost the vocals, which can be a bit overbearing and tiresome. Secondly, the material is not very strong, although some good melody lines appear during the journey through the desert. Whence the album secures its grip, the warlike expression and the somewhat intense drift nevertheless works well.
As before, local musical heritage from the Middle East is mixed with extreme metal. Local instruments such as bağlama and darbuka are an essential part of the band's identity, and are incorporated very well, especially in the percussion. The band's expression has a rough, primitive character, which reminds me a lot of a live performance, something that gives the music an archaic feel of ancient days of yore. The aggressive nature of the metal don't convey no rosy, romanticizing picture of a thousand and one nights on a flying carpet in unpolluted and pleasantly tempered air under the moon in all its moon phases.
Relentless desert war under the burning sun, is what manifests itself in my mind when Arallu kicks off. The desert sand is coloured blood-red by the thousands of victims to the sharp blade of the sabre when different tribes come to blows tooth and nail.
Arallu's rough and unpolished style undoubtedly has its charm, although a “self-made” gust lie like a faint layer of smog over the band's work. If nothing else, it gives an authentic taste of genuine antagonism from the Middle East. Rating: 4-
Svart Records, 22.09.17
Madness knows no limits what metallic mental depravity is concerned. Something Urarv (meaning Ur-heritage) is another proof of. The main character behind Urarv is Aldrahn (Thorns, The Deathtrip, Ex-Dødheimsgard, etc.), serving here a schizophrenic mix of folk, black and alternative experimental surrealism.
It all started as a one-man folk-based project during a stay at a mental institution in 2003.
After the first fumbling attempts, however, Aldrahn realized that conventional folk tunes alone wouldn't really do the trick.
Not until ten years after having fostered the idea, the ball started rolling. He was joined by Sturt from Troll and a number of lesser-known constellations on bass, and Trish from Asagraum (to which we'll return next week) on drums.
After an intro-sequence, it's tough black/viking riffs, viking choirs and a folk-whiff that opens the disc on Forvitringstid (Time of Decomposition). The vocals nevertheless hints at dawning lunacy. Ancient DNA also begins with rough and black riffing, whilst the vocals in particular, assisted by a sequence of hallucinatory guitar play, testifies to the approaching of brewing exuberant psychosis.
The music gradually assumes a dreamy, outlandish shape, which moves in parallel with the original roadmap, but that still feels like an alternative distorted dimension. Urarv drives along the road, but keeps staggering off the road time and time again with bizarre antics, utterances, sounds and weird gestures. “Hocus pocus filiocus”, says Aldrahn in Broken Wand, as he wave with pieces of a broken snow plough/driveway marker. Has our patient been discharged from the hospital prematurely?
The music becomes harmoniously atonal in an unreal manner while the schizophrenic delusional psychosis gradually erupt in full bloom. At the same time, an echo of black metal from the real sphere penetrates the alternative reality we have somehow crossed over into. Fractions of a kaleidoscopic calibre appear, as well as a vague air of Slagmaur* in Red Circle.
“Det var en gang en lang, trang gang, som rommet tusen dører”, meaning “Once upon a time, there was a long, narrow hallway, that contained a thousand doors”, Aldrahn continues to chant in Valens Tempel, before frothingly and rabidly making lots of gurgling sounds from the throat. Then he sits down, smiles, and keeps singing the same words as a nursery rhyme. The only thing that's missing before he resorts to war-cries, ape-sounds and eventually wild whistling in subsequent Fancy Daggers, is that his head rotates continuously around its own axis. For this have to be an abstract dream.
Unlike Howls of Ebb and Khthoniik Cerviiks, Urarv don't emulate madness without the slightest grip on reality. Urarv tries to hold on, to appear as normal, and may even succeed in their own distorted view. The rest of us witness how the band constantly slides out of character. For normality as an established A4 canon of reality, is only an act and an illusion.
Aurum is an ordeal of an album. A strange piece of art carved from the collective subconsciousness of the mad. But after a large number of attempts, the album butts in like intrusive, pestering injection needles. The album is quite difficult to make heads or tails of, but still offers a fascinating and unique journey into the mind's untidy labyrinths of constructed and imaginary reality. Rating: 4-
Last year's Promo 2016 can be checked and downloaded from the collective distribution network The Great Northern.
Séance Records, 15.09.17 Mascharat has arrived from Milan, Italy, to spread black eeriness. The band plays melodic black metal with a raw and primitive touch and offers a concept on their self-titled debut.
Their conceptual theme has been borrowed from Venice, though.
Before reading the press release, I felt almost certain that the band was French, and I guessed the concept circled around the theme of the plague.
Turns out I was seriously wrong.
The concept deals with masquerades of the Italian variant, where one throughout the last eight centuries have put on masks in order to circumvent social norms as a break from civilization's rigid rules and customs. The tradition of the Venetian carnival became official in the Renaissance, but originally started a few hundred years earlier.
Those who mask their face to participate in social life, might allow themselves a somewhat more dissipated and promiscuous way of life, free from normal conventions.
The concept is a three-part allegorical tale of a man who, in the face of masked individuals, is convinced to seek a deeper truth beyond his adopted dogma. The three song titles Bauta, Médecin de Peste and Mora represent three classic types of masks. These faceless gentlemen offer further guidance through initialization in secret brotherhoods. Along the way, the man loses his own mental identity of sight, before he finally realizes that he has simply been deceived and made a fool off.
Mascharat is themselves an anonymous band. Even the number of members doesn't seem to be specified anywhere. They've existed as a collective since 2010, and define their own style as Renaissance Black Metal. Among other things, they mix some very subtle orchestral classicism in, without the music departing from the pietistic black path. The music isn't distinctly deep and substantial, but its relatively simple nature is effective, and the melodies are moody and ominous. Some finesse and rather abundant variations are nevertheless found in the band's melodic approach to classic black metal.
The reason for my conviction that the band was French is 11.5 minutes long Médecin de Peste, wearing the Latin title Medicus Pestis on the demo the band released in 2014. This sounds French through and through in my ears. Then again, both languages are Romance (of Latin origin), although the French have clung to their Gallic (Celtic) phonology. With relatively primitive, but also adequate sound, this gives a sense of Peste Noire. Like the French band, the Italians also blend in some peculiarities in their music, such as the medieval interlude Vestibolo (complete with harpsichord, also used by for instance Mist Of Misery* or the Arabic-sounding words that opens Iniziazione. They don't exaggerate, though.
The debutants have a good expression. I have a taste for the guitar's sharp tones, the naked aggression of the drums and the rasping vocal. Mascharat conveys its occult philosophy by diving into hedonism using suiting melody lines. The material ain't overwhelmingly memorable, but it's more than good enough to enjoy for whoever likes this kind of metal. Rating: 4