Crescent – Carving the Fires of Akhet Review

I’ve said it before and, Ra be damned, I’ll say it again. I love eastern themes in metal. As a result, my interest is naturally piqued by any band utilizing those progressions or from that part of the world. I discussed this at length in my review of Crescent‘s 2018 album The Order of Amenti. These Egyptians definitely know how to implement dynamic scales amidst stone-cracking riffs. Now, ignited with a little new blood, Carving the Fires of Akhet prepares to descend on the masses in a flurry of smoke and ash. If Belphegor drank from the mighty Nile and were thus Immortalized, then so this Crescent sun might rise. One thing is for sure, with their mythological lyrical content, obvious comparisons abound. But Crescent are now that much closer to burning away the chaff and defining an identity of their very own…

Crescent excel in combining blackened cinematic scapes with plenty of death metal heft. The Order of Amenti was adept at formulating a memorable advance with a firm grasp on riffing. The influences were clear but the material proved its own merit. Carving the Fires of Akhet doesn’t change tact but rather improves it in almost every way. Tides of rich tremolo work converge to form a layered confluence where the songs naturally progress. It is these guitar lines that comprise the ink of the band’s signature. Crescent‘s cursive may be fluid, but it never shies away from aggressive punctuation. The penmanship, especially in the transitions, is notably superior and never fails to herald a deceptively filthy riff, which ensures a little meat remains on the material’s sand-blasted bones.

Crescent‘s third album enjoys an explosive start. Building on its namesake “The Fires of Akhet” erupts before waning into brooding embers of chanting and the kind of world instrumentation that would make Karl Sanders proud. It’s a real purpose-piece, able to accelerate at a moment’s notice and designed to illustrate exactly what Crescent are made of. On the other hand, “Neb-Pheti-Ra” opts for big buoyant riffs impossible to deny. Guitarists Ismaeel Attallah and Youssef Saleh engineer more than a little melody into their work. “Serpent of Avaris” enters with the kind of hook indigenous to an act like Amon Amarth or even Ex Deo. Alternatively, “Drowned in Theban Blood” focuses on a stirring mid-pace, accentuated by Attallah’s combination of shrieks and growls. Unfortunately, this is also where Carving the Fires of Akhet repeats its sibling’s mistakes. The second half of the album relies far too much on a slower tempo and fails to consistently hold my attention. There are certainly no bad songs here, but the record remains heavily front-loaded.

Relative newcomers Julian Dietrich on drums and bassist Stefan Dietz echo the band’s relocation to Germany. Dietrich is a more than capable skinsman, whose fills and double-bass work underpin the grandiose nature of the songs. This still isn’t enough to stop the eventual blurring of the closing tracks. The inclusion of the minute-long “Crimson Descension” is useless. This trend of pointless instrumental breaks continues to baffle me. There is absolutely no good reason why the extraneous sixty seconds can’t be attached to the beginning of the next song proper. The only purpose it serves here is to extend the album even further past its prime.1

Carving the Fires of Akhet succeeds in the one necessary objective of any discography. It betters what came before. Although the band haven’t quite perfected the art of pacing their track-list, this is still a release I can heartily recommend. Crescent‘s writing and performance is considerable and their exuberance sits behind the material as the band’s fifth member. If you have any fondness for dramatic metal or just enjoy being stranded in an aural desert of gods and war, then look no further. Carving the Fires of Akhet meets your requirements in an excess of sand and arcane flame.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Listenable Records
Websites: listenable-records.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/crescentband
Releases Worldwide: July 16th (Digital)/ July 30th (Physical)


Written By: Twelve

Before 2018, I didn’t really listen to death metal. It wasn’t a sub-genre I had much interest in, save for bands representing its melodic cousin. That changed when I read Ferrous Beuller‘s review for the Egyptian band Crescent’s sophomore full-length release, The Order of Amenti. The review convinced me to check out the music, and something just… clicked. Crescent’s style of epic, sweeping, punishing death metal pulled me in completely. I still listen to the album on a fairly regular basis, and was thrilled to hear about a new release this year – and even more so when the opportunity to add my thoughts to Ferrous’s came along. Carving the Fires of Akhet, I hoped, could only impress me based on the strength of the last output. And impress me it has.

Carving the Fires of Akhet is expansive, punishing, and powerful in a way that builds on and surpasses its predecessor. The journey begins with “The Fires of Akhet,” which sees Crescent lean into their penchant for dramatic, sweeping, cinematic passages. Scattered like sands across the song are gorgeous tremolos, epic chants, brief moments of acoustic calm, and blistering riffs aplenty. There are a few call-backs, it feels, to The Order of Amenti in the song – and the album’s – progressive stylings and use of melodic leads, but Carving the Fires of Akhet has its own clear mission statement and style: this is a grander, darker, and more focused album, and the payoff is clear from the start. And, of course, the riffs and leads are as sharp as ever.

It would be difficult to name an MVP for Crescent; all four band members are at the top of their game here. Julian Dietrich’s drumming is once again consistently lush and complex, demanding the attention of the listener throughout. I love the way that songs like “Imprecations Upon Thy Flame” are able to navigate different paces and moods without ever taking away from the sheer complexity emanating from the drum kit. Between Ismaeel Attallah and Youssef Saleh, who both take on vocal and guitar duties, there’s nuance and variability aplenty in the growls, rasps, and screams that tell the listener what’s what. Stefan Dietz finds precious few moments to shine on bass, but does a lot of heavy lifting throughout, rounding out the album’s low end with aplomb. It helps that the album is produced and mixed in such a way as to highlight each individual performance, though while this does mean the album sounds great, it creates a small problem too.

You see, if I was to criticize anything about Carving the Fires of Akhet, I would point to an interesting disconnect between two of Crescent’s most reliable assets — vocal performance and engaging leads (both credited to Attallah). Back in 2018’s The Order of Amenti, Attallah’s vocals weren’t really given much prominence in the mix, allowing him to lurk menacingly in the background and command the story from afar. Here, the vocals are much higher in the mix and tend to favor a low, rumbling growl across the album. Paired with high-pitched tremolo leads and grand, sweeping passages of riffs, it’s hard not to feel a little like one is too low and one is too high. For example, “Serpent of Avaris” is an epic tune where the lead guitar is in charge for most of the song, with a lead that reminds me amusingly of “The-Final-Countdown.” It’s hard not to feel like either the growls need to be softer or the leads need to be angrier; the two don’t mesh so well as the band has proven they can.

With so much raw talent firing on all sides, however, it’s hard to get too hung up on it. For nearly fifty minutes2, Crescent are engaging, dramatic, and fiery in their interpretation of death metal sourced from their homeland ancient histories and mythologies. Carving the Fires of Akhet is solid and confident in what it’s here to do: melt faces with the fires of an ancient Egyptian pantheon — and you’d better believe it succeeds at doing exactly that.


Rating: 3.5/5.0

Show 2 footnotes

  1. It is worth mentioning that the bonus cover versions of Dissection‘s “Xeper-I-Set” and Bolt Thrower‘s “…  For Victory” included on some formats are good fun .
  2. With bonus tracks on some versions stretching the album over an hour.
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