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The more I discover new bands via the internet, the more I become aware of the fact that most music affectionados have a very Eurocentric view. This holds especially true in the metal world so it has become a mission of mine to spread word of bands that are off the radar. Today, I am exploring another project that is very dear to me named Qafas (meaning “cage” in Arabic). The one responsible is Learza, a musician from Bahrain, who has had his hand steeped in several one-man oriental black metal projects since 2004. He has taken a different approach with this one; the project is an experimentation with funeral doom as his medium. This holds especially true for Qafas’ 2010 EP, “Al-Ahlaam,” which literally translates to “The Dreams.”
The motif of this release is reflected not only musically, but also by track order in conjunction with their names. Sorrow and dreariness coats this project which keeps it true to the spirit of doom metal; it is also a purely instrumental release with classical compositional elements that land it easily within the realm of despondent funeral doom. While it may be true that it lacks the undefinable “hard edge” that one expects from something that is associated with metal, the definition of “metal” has expanded to such a degree over the years that a project like this is able to fit comfortably within its ranks.
Since there is no lyrical theme to describe, I will go into some detail regarding the progression of this EP because much thought was put into it. First comes a nostalgic vision from the past in the first song with the sound of an old movie projector in the opening; it’s a short and deeply wistful classical composition that faintly reminds me of Philip Glass’ style. What follows it is something titled “The Reoccurring Trauma/Al-Sadma Al-Mutakerera” that treads more on the eerie funeral doom side via the presence of guitar (with Thamud‘s Mudamer playing backing lead guitar) and double bass/blast beats in the background. The twist with this song is that it starts out eerie but gradually progresses to a more light-hearted tone that lasts through-out it’s closing.
“Between the Fangs of Nightmares/Beyn Anyaab Al-Kawabes” is the culmination of the previous tracks and climax of this project. The combination of dejection and foreboding from the first two songs elope giving birth to this beautiful monstrosity. There is a clear influence of ambient black metal that creeps through the ominous tone of this baby with two guest musicians aiding the effect, Mudamer playing rhythm guitar this time and Demon ov Darkness from BlackSpell playing the first keyboard arrangement. The songs that follow, “Ijtima’ Al-Shu’ra’/Gathering of Poets” and “Al-Ahlaam/The Dreams,” draw from the EP’s initial classical melancholy marking our journey through Learza’s dream world as complete.
The moment you start the release it is already over. Vague glimpses of something that can hardly be described as metal, left alone as funeral doom, pass by and leave no real lasting impression. Ambient, fragments of melodies by guitars, field recordings appear in a free style on Al-Ahlaam. The song-writing as well as the atmospheres sound random, as the listener might struggle with what is going on here.
One suspicion can be raised:
Was an entry at the Metal Archives created in order to give way to countless – as well as pointless – entries on music, every sane metalhead in the West would give a shit about?
Nortt wandered off into the ambient region not very long ago and also the depressive black metal genre has some clear tendency of progressing towards this genre. So, it might be natural to find facets pop-up again and again in some respect on one record or another. Nevertheless, an entire output, whose music was created nearly entirely with the help of synths and a pc, should raise an eyebrow. Especially when the music leaves a lot to be desired … like here.
Everything sounds cheap and comes without any sense of atmosphere and structure. Boring at best are those odd keyboard lines and their RPG/MMORPG-influenced sound, the absence of some sort of lasting ideas and the randomness of the compositions; the latter aspect should be emphasized, because once the record is over the listener might be confused about what this person just had gone through.