Album Review: Al-Namrood – Al Aqrab

I keep nagging our writers to get their reviews in more than 17 minutes before album release dates, and this is not the first one I’ve dropped this week after the album has come out. So my apologies to the writers (but not too many, got to keep them in line) and to the members of Al-Namrood (both of then, Artiya’il and Mephisto) for not helping hype up the release of Al Aqrab. Hype, by the way, that it richly deserves.

I do love a bit of variety, and crossover material. Whether that’s a mix of musical genres (death thrash, melodic death, rap metal) or a clash of cultures, of which we’ve been treated to a lot over the years. Bloodywood‘s Indian tones, The Hu mixing Mongolian music in with their metal, Ryujin’s Japanese material that we were sandblasted with earlier this year, and so on. Add to that mix (with their tenth album), Al-Namrood. Their particular ingredients are black metal alongside Arabian and Oriental influences. And bloody hell, does it work well.

While black metal is not amongst my favourite genres, I’ve found that there are some bands out there who still manage to catch my ear – especially if they do something a bit special with it, rather than just try and ramp up the evil or make the blast beats faster. I’d never have picked it out as a genre that would go well with traditional Arabian instruments, but here we are. The PR email piqued my interest and I ended up listening to the album more than a few times, which pretty much guaranteed this (slightly belated) review.

With a title translating to “Scorpion Prison”, it’s a shame I can’t make head nor tail of the lyrics, but given that it’s black metal I’d be struggling to make them out anyway. What absolutely sells this album to me is definitely the music. I hate to use the word “catchy” when we’re not talking about mainstream rock, or pop punk, or something… but it is. The rhythms owe a lot to their traditional roots, and help temper what is often a very inaccessible genre.

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The largely instrumental “Ardh Bela Sama”, with a brash sound akin to an emperor’s entrance (I get feels of Ex Deo), introduces the technical layers of the music and multiple instruments. This track alone had me hooked. The vocals are as harsh as you would expect, but are placed alongside the music rather than riding too high above it. They add a quite creepy overtone to otherwise melodic sounds.

“Lisan Al Nar” is a brilliant head-nodder, with a great rhythm and a very different vocal sound to its forerunner. Again, it’s the way so many sounds have been intermingled without sounding remotely messy. How only two band members have created this is beyond me. It’s an orchestral piece, as is every song on here, quite frankly. For a change of pace, head for the album closer “Tarjif” which is more thrash, with a thumping beat. It doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album, but comes across as a very welcome bonus track.

I’m not going to go through each in turn, instead I just urge you to listen to the whole album. I get a feeling there are some great stories behind the songs, and I’m tempted to do a little research. The whole thing is like listening to an amazing film soundtrack in bitesize chunks, from a movie set in the Middle East, with devilspawn spitting curses in your ears. Quite honestly, it’s superb.

While it’s not the music I would put on in the car (I prefer something to sing along to), it’s been keeping me company in the house while I’ve been marking exams! Six months in, and one of the best releases I’ve enjoyed so far this year.

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Al Aqrab is out today with physical and digital copies available via Bandcamp

Check out all the bands we review in 2024 on our Spotify and YouTube playlists!

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