Things have changed in the time that’s passed since I first encountered Arallu and their sextant offering, Six. I was so young and innocent in those faraway days of 2017, unsullied by the harsh realities of angry metal wordslingerdom… Fast forward to the significantly older/infinitely wiser modern day Muppet and the dream is over, rotting in an unmarked grave beneath the moldering corpses of Happy Metal Guy and so many fidget spinners. I now recognize AMG‘s Law ov Diminishing Recordings as a cold and cruelly ironic constant, and subsequently I slowly shuffled up to Six‘s successor, the septimal En Olam, with extreme arthritis and trepidation. By the time it was all over, I sighed wearily and shuffled even more gingerly back to my sleeping perch—for such was the extent of my physical capabilities in the wake of the ass beating that En Olam had just given me.
When last Arallu tore through this great Hall of ours, the youngling Muppet was particularly impressed by the band’s evenhanded interspersal of Middle Eastern melodies into their meat n’ taters blackened death. A light dusting of desert sand was sprinkled over everything on Six, particularly in the percussion department, yet nothing ever reached the gimmicky, contrived levels of Nile, Amon Amarth or other themed bullshit1, and ‘Less is More’ won again. En Olam finds the Israelis doubling down on the desert-y decor – and sounding just as honest and naturally lethal as ever, perhaps even more so. Tracks such as “Devil’s Child” or “Spells” could only have ever come from arid sands, but, more importantly, they could only ever come from Arallu. 22 years and 7 full-lengths into their career, Arallu have transcended niche-dom and cultivated a sound of their own, and En Olam is a strong testament to the band’s abilities, circa now.
While the Eastern atmosphere is a key component of the quintet’s killer craft, there’s really only one thing you need to need to know about En Olam: here be fuckin riffs. As captivated as I was by the wild notion of Israeli black metal2 when I covered Six, present-day Arallu are first and foremost a death metal band. A death metal band with strong and glorious ebony leanings, sure, but the array of riffs and raucous rhythms so tastefully and tastily arranged within these 10 tracks is blackened-death gold no matter how or where you spin it. The titular track is a terrifying, tush-tearing thing ov thundering tribal drums and righteous riff revelry, and “Devil’s Child” has almost certainly affected my spinal alignment forever: if this vulgar display of powerful riffs and utterly fucking hostile vocals doesn’t leave you far beyond driven to form a flash moshpit, you can walk on home, yo.
Beyond attaining a near perfect balance of atmosphere and to-the-point riffdom, the songs also feel much more focused here than on Six, typically averaging three to four minutes and made all the more powerful for their less-ness. Additionally, bassist/vocalist Butchered has really come into his own here on album 7: just as guitarists Gal Pixel and Omri Yagen have carved an inimitable home for the band into the metalverse, Butchered’s performance on Spells solidifies his role as the screaming, unhinged hero that we need and Arallu deserve. Between his serrated growls and contemptuous shrieks, the dude doesn’t merely sound wrathful and violent this time around: he sounds like he is wrath, like he is violence. There’s a visceral, blood-thirsty quality to his contributions that reeks of unsettling authenticity, the kind that reminds you why so many people assume that all metalheads are violent sociopaths.
I have nothing bad to say about En Olam. Six was great and I had no faith whatsoever that its follow up could possibly hold a camel to it,3 yet this is a superior album in every way. The songs get in, kick your ass, and get out. They sound very much like the work of a band who knows who they are and what they want to do. En Olam has its own identity, standing out against both a backdrop of by-the-numbers blackened-death bands and the band’s own badass discography. Hearing this level of progress and improved performance in the wake of something as badass as Six was a ridiculously welcome surprise, indeed, and you’re either gonna love it or be dead to me.