Heads up, Angry Metal Explorers! Today we’re taking a magic carpet ride to a whole not-so-new world, a faraway place where the caravan camels roam. We’re going (going, back back) to Israel. Israel. Not exactly a land lauded for its black metal scene, but here we are, gathering our courage to sneak a glimpse at a trve monster born of death metal dreams in blackened Arabian nights. They call this beast Arallu, and we would do well to avoid letting it sneak up on us with its latest weapon, Six. Knowledge is power, yo, so let’s get our learn on.
Like anywhere, Israel isn’t completely devoid of metal, hiding such diamonds as Azazel and Melechesh in the rough sands of the underground. In fact, Encyclopaedia Metallum lists over 250 bands as hailing from there, but with roughly half of them disbanded and the rest nailed to obscurity, the place isn’t exactly Poland. With the bands 6th offering, however, Arallu may put their homeland one jump ahead of the evil game. They’ve been doing their blackened deathy thing since ’98, and a recent perusal of their discography revealed that the talent has always been there, particularly evident on 2015’s Geniewar. Back then, Arallu were simply savage. 2 years later, these guys have whipped themselves into something downright barbaric, like cut-off-your-ear-if-they-don’t-like-your-face barbaric. We’ll hope it doesn’t come to that, but if I’m too late with my warning, here’s what you’re missing (y’know, besides an ear).
Categorizing Arallu isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but ‘Middle Eastern blackened death’ does the trick. Sometimes they sound as if Woe had spent one thousand and one nights in Agrabah, or Behemoth if they brushed up on their Sunday salaam. Tracks such as “Only One Truth” and “Possessed by the Sleep” tell such tales, while “Philosophers” might be a cooler God Dethroned track than anything the de-seaters of deities have done themselves since Passiondale. The band always sounds very much like their own kind of monster, though, and much of that credit goes to vocalist/bassist Butchered’s feral screams and Eylon Bart’s generous application of saz and darbuka to the misanthropic mix. The native instruments lend a balanced tinge of Eastern flavor to an already tasty recipe, but Butchered’s vocals take the cake and do unspeakable things to it with a forceful brutality that any fan of death will surely admire. Escalating from Nergal-on-PCP rage to Maladie levels of torture at times, the vocal performance is as trve as they come, and much of Six’s strength stems from said screams.
There’s no question this Arallu’s alluring, and much of what keeps it from ever being ordinary or boring comes from the band knowing when to move from one spectacular coterie to another. “Possessed by the Sleep,” for example, greets us with an eerie Eastern intro before guitarists Pixel and Omri Yagen lug some chug along a Chimaira-y groove, which then explodes into pure death metal glory while Butchered builds his barrage of brutality into a trvly unhinged black metal wail towards the end. Drummer Assaf Kassimov displays similarly excellent exploratory skills throughout the album’s 38ish minutes, gently maintaining the atmosphere with tribal drums one moment and double bass blast-beating with the best of them the next.
Everything about the album just plain impresses, but that’s not to say that it’s entirely without fault. Album closer “Soulless Soldier” houses both of my gripes, namely the comparative weakness of said song and its abrupt ending, which doubles as the end of the album. I wandered through the ol’ bazaar with bated breath and a compounding sense of nervous optimism as track after track roared by with teeth bared, which only made “Soulless Soldier” feel that much weaker when it arrived. One lackluster track after everything beforehand being as strong as ten songs is forgivable, but it’s the abrupt ending that really gets my camel1. Practically in the middle of a riff, and without so much as a ‘close sesame’ for warning, “Soulless Soldier” suddenly stops, somewhat sapping Six of its shining, shimmering splendor. A minor quibble, sure, but a quibble nonetheless.
All in all, this album is hotter than hot in a lot of good ways. The songwriting is superb, the music itself is killer, and with such heavy ammunition in their camp Arallu have proven themselves a barbaric force to be reckoned with. Six is a winner, a whiz, a wonder, and a trve testament to the Israeli black metal scene. Stop listening to silly Disney shit and check it out, already.