Review: Arallu “Death Covenant” [Hammerheart Records]

Review: Arallu “Death Covenant” [Hammerheart Records]

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By the end of autumn, the Israelite band Arallu has returned with their brand new album Death Covenant, releasing it through Hammerheart Records. They gave themselves a three-year-long break to focus on the new material. And now they present a mature and diverse record, proving once again how well metal music can cohabit with oriental elements.

Israel isn’t very popular country in the creation of metal legends, the religious impact and political system concern the lives of their citizens way too strong, so extreme music is often viciously received or at least with some kind of suspicion. The world is still full of boundaries and intrusive rules regarding the freedom of artistic expression. Israel is an old country with rich cultural heritage; their traditional music is quite unique, especially when entwined with other non-traditional musical styles. Arallu is one of the few bands that successfully combine metal with the native traditions of their ethnic roots. But their love for black and death metal seems much stronger than their flirtations with eastern elements, directing this folk side into the background in an unobtrusive way. Exactly the same as in the case with another local metal celebrity Melechesh – when metal foundation and aggressiveness prevail over middle-eastern antiquity. The point is, Arallu isn’t a folk metal band, they prefer to serve in the name of black metal’s piercing darkness and death metal’s blunt straightforwardness.

But we can’t shun the oriental influence, because it’s constant and is responsible for all the diverseness. If we consider this album only as a death/black metal record, there’s nothing experimental or extraordinary, just one solid and assertive metal record – moderately melodic, moderately violent, with changing rhythmic patterns and pertinent rawness. But when we tune our ears to the ethnic lavishness, all this classic metal perception is compromised. From occult and shamanistic monotonous crudeness (“End ov Wars (Tikva)”) and eminent religious solemnity (“Under Jerusalem’s Temple Mount”) to mischievous spiritual ethnicity (“Prophecy of the Dead”), the middle-eastern lines, hidden within black metal’s heart, are leading to a blissful and harmonious musical integrity. And that’s strange how these low-key elements alter the ultimate outcome of Arallu’s musical goals. Like they are under religious and mythological protection of their ancestors, and at the same time absolutely out of it, just a bunch of skeptical observers. Or even against it. Like, what the fuck, why can’t we value the spiritual connection and fondness for satanic music at the same time? So, this spirit of rebelliousness enhances the feeling of never-ending bloody struggles that also exists in our own lives.

If we put aside all the ethnic stuff, we can see some kind of a structural design – the speediest, most aggressive and atmospheric parts belong to old school black metal’s visions, also providing extra grimness. Because when the songs slow down, giving way to melodies and major mode, then it’s time for death metal to reign. Despite all the rapidness and truculence, there’s always something hopefully optimistic in their sound (“Satanic Spirit” or “Desert Shadow will rise”), obscuring all the shadows and penumbras. But all the demons are still there, lingering in the subconscious labyrinth of this album, never openly poisoning the minds of the listeners. The songs with the guest singers also differ a bit, offering fresh ideas and their own contribution. Brazilian Lord Kaiaphas (once in Norwegian “Ancient” and now in “Thokkian Vortex”, and also in some pretty known psytrance projects like “Minimal Criminal”) has brought chaotic messiness to the third track “Ruler of the Seven Worlds”. Meanwhile, Grecian Stefan Necroabyssious from Varathron and Katavasia doubled the level of evilness with his old school black metal’s devotion in the composition “Humanity Death Embrace”.

There’s nothing progressive during this record, only straightforward force of extreme metal, without any aesthetic sophistications or polished decorative meekness. So this harsh wall of sound highlights dirty rawness in a most brutal way. The music itself isn’t so heavy but for this crudeness, and it’s a deliberate move that isn’t connected to their mastering or mixing problems. The arrangements sound holistic; every instrument is quite audible, connecting to each other in a rather balanced manner. That’s why their music is so powerful during live performances. Even the sound of bağlama and goblet drum, Asian traditional instruments, is interwoven into the general pattern with a skillful precision. And even if sometimes the guitar riffs are too monotonously repetitious and atmospheric coldness is buried deeply under the superficial layers of predictable melodies, Death Covenant flows through all the banalities and clichés, in the end presenting an inevitable product of steel certitude. Yes, this album has real balls despite all the melodic waves and ethnic blessings.

The idea to integrate the Mesopotamian beliefs into their lyrics and artworks proudly stresses their Israelite roots, but in a very twisted and sombre way. Under the banner of primeval traditionalism and in the shadow of profane ghastliness, tinged with transparent rays of folkloristic poise and lost in the brambles of emotional turbulence, the new album of Arallu continues to promote the local traditions, simultaneously fighting against the religious dogmas.

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