Some pain will last. In particular, those most formative of musical memories, the marriage of experience and DNA. Realm of Chaos and Consuming Impulse were the first to school me on how hard death metal could hit, and while Pierced From Within taught a lesson in climactic brutality, it was In Their Darkened Shrines that embodied the extravagance of extremity. These three tenets are what I champion in truly great death metal and, thanks to the latter, what can clumsily be described as “eastern” chord progressions have appealed to me ever since. Egypt’s very own Crescent know my needs, and their second album, The Order of Amenti, seeks to deliver just that; opulent themes, dramatic crescendos and a focus on gripping riff-work. With these paradigms well and truly set in stone long before this band’s inception, I was intrigued to see if Crescent had what it took to hold their own with an already well-defined sound. Death comes swift to those in doubt.
To acknowledge the looming Sphinx in the room, the closest analogue is, of course, Nile, however it would be a terrible disservice to weigh an entire review against the merits of another band, particularly when Crescent arguably have a greater claim to the identity, being that they are, in fact, Egyptian themselves. Like Maat and fellow countrymen, Scarab, the band utilize their homeland’s mythological source material and a multitude of ethnic instrumentation and musical scales to extol their often blackened death metal. While less technical than some of their more obvious peers, make no mistake, Crescent are absolutely in possession of that papyrus containing the spell to riff me well and truly out of the water. Rhythm is king here, with both guitarists employing arresting changes in time-signature. “Obscuring the Light” and “Beyond the Path of Amenti” are almost progressive in their ability to fluidly combine crushing changes in staccato riffing with stepped tremolos, taking a tried and true page from modern Immolation‘s playbook. Vocalist and lead guitarist, Ismaeel Attallah, even makes a passable attempt at invoking the same cataclysm as Ross Dolan in between the occasional use of scarab scattering screams.
Unsurprisingly, The Order of Amenti opts for a grandiosity often cinematic in design. Chanting choral sections, indigenous drumming and sparse use of symphonic samples accentuate the exotic motifs, conspiring to embolden cuts like “Reciting Spells to Mutilate Apophis” and “Through the Scars of Horus.” The latter’s more flamboyant nervous system is riven to an iron spine of unshakable groove, eventually peaking with a firing synaptic solo. While Crescent‘s commitment to songwriting is commendable, their craft does suffer a few subtle but relevant drawbacks, increasingly apparent during the album’s second half. A workmanlike, yet somewhat indistinct, ethic begins to pervade, despite the ever-present quality. “The Twelfth Gate” is the worst offender; an instrumental that attempts to revisit some of the melodies issued earlier in the album – likely as a thematic link – but sadly ends up feeling redundant and largely recycled. Perhaps a little more variety in pacing or tempo could have allayed any discrepancy; as it is the record’s end is ferocious, yet ultimately familiar.
Attalah and rhythm guitarist, Youssef Saleh, notably assault the album with an array of wicked riffing and erratic melodies, but drummer, Amr Mokhtar, consistently succeeded in demanding my attention with his creative yet succinct drum-work. His double-bass foundation and blasting excursions are commendable but never over-indulged, as he underpins the epic guitar lines with a tastefully restrained selection of fills. Entirely unrestrained, however, and all the better for it, is the absolute Bolt Thrower worship of “Sons of Monthu.” The militaristic patterns and relentless advance were surely commissioned as homage to the legendary band, and despite its unique character, the song blends seamlessly with the album’s whole.
If Nile are the Imhotep of Egyptian death metal, then Crescent are surely the Ardath Bey, seething below the surface and ready to rule at a moment’s notice. While front-loaded, The Order of Amenti is a fine album primed with a rich calibre, which proves, despite the occasional lapse in stamina, that it can only be a matter of time before a band like Crescent rises to dominance, uttering embittered curses and flaying heretics by the score. I, for one, eagerly await the reckoning.