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Scorching sands from the East. - 88%

JetMeestard, December 19th, 2020

Heavy metal as a genre has always been against the system and any sort of authority, but few, if any bands embody that aspect of the genre the way Al Namrood have for more than a decade now. Formed in 2008, the trio has been illegally making black metal denouncing religion, which is punishable by death in their home country of Saudi Arabia. I had actually read about them online a few years back, but dismissed them as a band whose music would just be mediocre, and that their only notable characteristic was the conditions under which they are making it. That changed earlier this year though with their most recent album, Wala'at, the quality of which took me aback and prompted me to look into the rest of their discography, which led to me writing about their 5th release, Diaji Al Joor. What we have here is the band expanding their sound and attempting to give the music a more epic feel, to great results.

Following a short instrumental introduction, we're being thrown into the first proper track of the album, "Zamjara Alat", and one thing immediately makes an impression: Humbaba's vocals. The sheer energy and variety this man exhibits through his rather eccentric performance throughout this band's work has turned him into one of my favourite vocalists in the genre. Everything he does just works perfectly. He has a wide variety of styles, ranging from his gravelly voice to much cleaner and more chant like vocals. His presence is captivating and demands the listener's attention in the best way possible. And last but not least, his impeccable sense of rhythm makes his voice yet another instrument to the band's unique blend of black metal and oriental music.

But thankfully, Humbaba's antics aren't all that is on offer here, as songs like "Ejaph" and "Agdhan" showcase the band's songwriting abilities and knack for melody. The former has some fantastic string work which, coupled with the guitar riffs, make for an explosive rhythmic combination, with notable sections at 3:39 and one that comes in near the end of the track. "Agdhan" on the other hand is a more atmospheric affair, with wind instruments having a strong presence during the first leg of the song, before the band switches to a more percussive approach, slowly building up to one of Humbaba's vocal freakouts near the end.

The album's final third maintains the high level of quality we've heard so far, with heavy hitters like "Hayat Al Khezea" and "Ana Al Tughian". "Hayat Al Khezea" is a slow burner, maintaining a steady tempo for its duration, with the eastern instruments being the focal point, enhancing the ominous atmosphere of the track along with Humbaba's manic ranting on top. "Ana Al Tughian" on the other hand is the longest song on the album, feeling like a journey, ebbing and flowing throughout its duration, with a notable section being the one at 3:48, where the wind instrument takes the lead and gives the music an ethereal quality.

While the tracklist is solid, there are a couple of minor duds sprinkled throughout, such as the two instrumentals at the start and the end, the latter in particular ruining the finality of the track that preceded it. "Hawas Al Thuar" is the biggest miss on the album, as it feels lacking in dynamics, which the rest of the album has in spades.

The production on this album is surprisingly competent, considering the conditions it was likely recorded under. The mix is quite dynamic, with instruments taking the forefront whenever needed, barring the bass, which is somewhat low in the mix and can only be heard on select occasions (Hayat Al Khezea). The instruments themselves also don't sound half bad, with the guitars having a rather typical black metal sound to them, and the oriental instruments used throughout simply sound fantastic.

Al Namrood is one of the most unique bands I've ever listened to, and albums like Diaji Al Joor prove that they are far more than a gimmick band whose only notable characteristic is their country of origin. I can only hope that they at some point manage to get out of Saudi Arabia so that they can share their music with the metal community at large.

Highlights: Zamjara Alat, Agdhan, Hayat Al Khezea, Ana Al Tughian