Review: Al-Namrood – Wala’at

Al-Namrood – Wala’at
Shaytan Productions

Saudi Arabia is not well-known for black metal, yet the country is a muse for what the genre is about: religion, monarchy, paganism, and suppression – just a handful of topics which black metal relates in. Tackling these topics head-on with their seventh album, Al-Namrood’s newest release, Wala’at (“Loyalties” in English) continues stoking the flames of anger and disgust the band feels towards their government and the religion that surrounds it.

The anti-Islamic and anti-fascist themes of Al-Namrood’s music is both intense and dramatic. Mixing musical styles of both Western and Middle Eastern instruments, the band brings a familiarly dissonant style of black metal with the rather sharp contrast with harmonic Middle Eastern scales and tones. The two cultures blend together and create a hauntingly different feeling and mood to the genre.

While the band members remain anonymous due to the potential of the death penalty for performing their music, the three musicians aptly show their musical competency with melodies among the chaos and the foresight on when to change arrangements in their songs.

Standing out foremost in Wala’at is singer Humbaba, who alone brings a huge energetic performance to the music. Between the grunts, screams, and cries, Humbaba’s vocals are flexible and offer an incredible range and dynamic to the music. In fact, his enthusiasm comes together as one of the biggest triumphs on the album. Confident and devastating, his and stanzas are chilling at times while encouraging and uplifting in others. Without always understanding the lyrics, one can still get a feeling for what the band wants to portray. The pain, frustration, and demands for reform are obvious to the listener: Al-Namrood wants the listener to experience what they feel – and successfully does so with each performance.

In tracks like Kail Be Mekialain, musicians Mephisto and Ostron synchronize riffs together to create hauntingly eerie tones – even more so with the reverb cranked up on the drum samples in each song. Linked with Humbaba, there’s a common chemistry between the trio that energizes the music, elevating it beyond what most bands with decades of history are unable achieve.

In another track, Aar Al Estibad, the riffs are thrash-y and come with a punk-ish feel until the Arabian instruments join in. Those instruments ultimately change the feel of the song and move expectations from “just another black metal track” to something different. While the song itself technically doesn’t set new standards or heights in black metal, it’s still a powerful song which sticks with the listener for its almost hypnotic melodies and grinding vocal hums.

With all songs staying under the five minute mark, the near-forty minute album is an intense feast on the ears. Perhaps too overwhelming at first, the second, third, and multiple spins after will continue to bring the listener back to absorb the beauty and raw power Al-Namrood offer with Wala’at.

Al-Namrood – Wala’at on Bandcamp

Review: Deathcraeft – On Human Devolution

Deathcraeft – On Human Devolution

Deathcraeft’s debut and concept album, On Human Devolution, features lots of juicy riffs and hefty blast beats with lyrics that explore the socio-political and self-destructing nature of humanity. With clear influences from Testament, Possessed, and Aborted come together, this Greek band offers a surprisingly genuine effort of great arrangements and solid songwriting.

While the The Ritual starts things off with lots of heft and thrash metal influence, The Beginning of the End really kick starts the album with brilliant riffs and chugging that are catchy as hell. The song also starts to showcase more death metal influences in the band while still holding its thrash-like feel – the guitar and bass sounds feel thick and heavy and filled with a groove that almost adds a Pantera-like influence to the song.

Spreading Lies fluctuates with tempos and provides a lot of different highlights throughout the song which feel naturally powerful with its upbeat, catchy chorus.

The fourth track, Welcome to Oblivion, features the closest resemblance to the Possessed/Testament-influence. The groovy descending riffs layered on top of the battering double kicks really strike the listener with intensity. The chorus has triumphant moments which do not detract from the brutality before it, and ripping solos compliment the chorus as it transitions back into the verses.

If there’s one major compliment to give, singer Nikonas Tsolakos offers a wide range with his vocal styles. Whether grunts, growls, screams, or gutteral whispers, there’s a versatile mix of singing provided on the album which keeps the album fresh and easily digestible for listeners who may shy away from the more lower range of death metal vocals.

While featuring one of the better solos on the album, Survival slows down the pace the album has been running with. As a six minute song, it becomes a bit of a fight to bring the album back up again with the next song, Daydreaming in the Abyss, which arguably could have been the slower song transitioning into Paving the Way. However, the slow down allows the listener a bit of breathing room to absorb what they’ve heard before and perhaps realize a lot of the riffs and songwriting had been thematic in many songs – something that can be overlooked and certainly is not common in the death/thrash genre.

With the longest song on the album, Free into the Void is the most climatic song on the album – fitting to conclude the 48-minute concept album off properly – as it closes with a dripping-with-mood conclusion. With some of the heaviest riffs and fastest double kicks on the album, the song’s outro ends rather triumphantly – almost pulling from the folk metal sub genre with feelings of Amon Amarth shining through.

Intense, brutal, and surprisingly progressive, Deathcraeft’s debut throws lots of surprises at the listener to make a impressively creative debut.

Deathcraeft – On Human Devolution

Review: Thrash Inc. – Black Tower

Review: Thrash Inc. – Black Tower

Italian thrashers – aptly named Thrash Inc. – show off some impressive riffs some ripping speeds in their debut album, Black Tower.

With raw guitars and production, the album kick starts listeners with the title track. Singer/guitarist Paolo Iacono’s vocals feel like as a mix between Death and Pantera stylings, providing both a screeching and gutteral sound among the overall thrashy performance of the band. Nothing is too polished which gives the music an edge for sounding a bit different than a lot of the other modern thrash metal acts out there.

Among the headbanging, No More Lies invites chanting from listeners during the chorus, but ups the ante with fast paced verses and wailing solos. Clever vocal techniques like stuttering add a bit of flair to an already rocking song, and suggests a gentle nod to The Who’s My Generation. Meanwhile, with a mix between mid-tempo and high speed riffs in songs like Lobotomy, showcase a mix of talent and song writing capability among the band.

And still there’s songs like Whisper of Insanity which immediately felt like nod to Kreator’s Terrible Certainty and Regression which feels it’s alluding to Megadeth’s Sweating Bullets – letting the listener know where their loyalties in thrash metal lie.

Despite the thrashing nature, songs like Thor and Back to Hell come in with killer groove and riffs which keep the head banging along with feeling.

Featuring a lot of highs, the album hits a come down with Phobophobia – an instrumental which unfortunately lacks the oomph from the rest of the album. With a mix of different ideas coming together, the song unfortunately doesn’t hold its own when compared to the the album as a whole.

However, No Return and the cleverly-evil Salt Tears with its backwards “secret track” is yet another nod to the history of the genre which Thrash Inc. allude back to with great effect.

An impressive debut from the Italian trio, Thrash Inc.’s Black Tower is a great nod to thrash metal legends who came before while still establishing themselves as worthy to stand alongside them.

Thrash Inc. on Bandcamp

Honest Review: Testament – Titans of Creation

Testament – Titans of Creation
Nuclear Blast

Legendary thrash veterans Testament return with their much-anticipated thirteenth studio album, Titans of Creation. Heavy as always, Testament keeps the listener’s pulse pounding with yet another album to add to their extensive repertoire.

Blasting right out of the gates with Children of the Next Level, Testament keeps up with heavy chugging riffs and double kick gallops – calling for the listener to get the hell out of the way. Following, the seemingly tired thrash metal topic of World War III still feels fresh when Testament sings about it. With WW III, the riffs are intense and feel like they were written in the early days of the band. It is easily one of the best songs on the album.

While WW III is one of the best, Dream Deceiver is definitely one of the catchiest songs, with its sing-along chorus and an Alex Skolnick solo screaming with both melody and strength. It flows into the next song, Night of the Watch – my favourite song on the album – for its dark chorus and brutally battering verses.

It’s until after Night of the Watch where the album sort of loses some steam. City of Angels and what feels like a Megadeth-Sweating-Bullets-inspired song, Ishtars Gate, leave much to be desired from the already impressive set of songs that came before.

The intense False Prophets, the thrashing Code of Hammurabi, and the devastating Curse of Osiris offer nice reprieves, but the listener is at the end of the album at that point. Trying to win the listener back after being pulled away from the aggression is a difficult chore. While Testament almost makes it happen, the removal of one or two tedious songs would probably eliminate the issue.

That being said, the songs from Titans of Creation are still ever-powerful from Testament. However, as a whole they’re a bit of a jumble. With a strong start and solid finish, the lackluster middle could be forgiven since the band offers a near-hour of continuous headbanging.

While there’s nothing truly new or mind-blowing on the album from previous Testament records, Titans of Creation is still a solid release from the California thrash legends.

Uncanny Metal Score: 7/10

Testament on Nuclear Blast

Review: Black Sun Omega – The Sum of All Fears

Black Sun Ωmega – The Sum of All Fears

Released in December of 2019, Black Sun Ωmega’s debut album, The Sum of All Fears, is old-school thrash metal in a new age.

Mixing both thrash and death elements, Black Sun Ωmega crushes the listener with speedy riffs, pounding percussion, and dirty, raspy vocals.

Songs like Flowing Hate keep your head pounding for a near-six minutes. Hefty riffing and pull offs from both guitar and bass make for an incredible, pulse-pounding good time. Down My Sight is devastating right from the get-go. Like it, most songs evoke the listener to chant along, raise their fists, and run around. If an album can make the listener want to get moving like this one does – mission accomplished.

As for the mix, while I’m never expecting newer Overkill or Testament levels of production with a band’s debut album, The Sum of All Fears feels like a cross between Venom’s vocal styling and early-Voivod recordings, leaving a bit to be desired. As a baseline, the album does feel underground, but not as polished as thrash albums from underground bands like Power Trip, for whatever that’s worth.

However, Black Sun Ωmega’s songs rip. Hard. Ground of God, Arena of Souls, and World’s Demise stand out as what I feel to be the most powerful tracks – especially with World’s Demise guitar solo absolutely slaying. The musicianship is incredible and it certainly shines with each song – there was clear thought and care put into the written songs.

An incredible debut from this Greek band, Black Sun Ωmega’s debut The Sum of All Fears is something worth waking up in the morning to as it will kick your ass into high gear.

With a bit more polish in the back end, I can see these guys making waves.

Black Sun Ωmega on Bandcamp