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Saz, chugs, and no rock 'n' roll - 85%

gasmask_colostomy, December 2nd, 2019

This year’s pleasant present of metal comes from raspberrysoda (a person, not a beverage), and I’m pleased to be introduced to Israeli band Arallu. Quite a change has come over the band in a 20 year history, so it’s great to see 5 members contribute to this year’s En Olam, compared to only a lonely pair who recorded the debut. The focus these days seems much more varied than the initial idea of throwing down riffs to the gods of thrash and black metal, incorporating plenty of local instrumentation into a boisterous melodeath/black concoction that knows when to take a breather and when to go for the jugular. In fact, on each listen I feel more intrigued about the spaciousness of En Olam, especially considering the breadth of its sonic scope. Credit goes to a dense but slightly clean production, as well as smart songwriting and sequencing decisions.

The pair of songtitles ‘Devil’s Child’ and ‘Prophet’s Path’ may provide enough information to guide listeners on the slightly occult path that this seventh full-length treads, though merely hearing the twang of Eastern strings beneath the raw blackened guitar of ‘Guard of She’ol’ will do the same with no thinking required. Comparisons have frequently been drawn to Melechesh, which seems somewhat predictable given Arallu’s nationality, though Rudra from Indonesia occupy similar ground, even while En Olam changes tack several times. Personally, I also see good reasons for associating ‘Vortex of Emotions’ with Burzum’s slower compositions and ‘Prophet’s Path’ with the atmospheric folky melodeath espoused by Tengger Cavalry, while there are moments when the music veers away from any particular influences.

Despite all the styles at play, the passion that burns through each song unites the album around a single notion. Lead vocalist Butchered proves key in this regard, raging strongly over the swift riffs and keeping things on track for heaviness when the folk instruments play a more prominent role. Most of his lyrics are in English, though the interlude track ‘Achrit Ha’Yamin’ opens with a long quote in Hebrew that has the feeling of being recorded in the same manner as famous speeches from history; indeed, the sombre atmosphere it sets is maintained by hesitant strings that pause and wander in tense fashion. Following on from the longest track – the creeping 6 minute ‘Vortex of Emotions’ – this mid-album lull from pace ensures that the snappiness elsewhere keeps its impact throughout the listen. One could almost say that the 38 minute experience divides itself into 3 parts, the first containing some of the more complex folk-influenced songs, then a darker period of downtime, finally returning to a swifter variant on the folk ‘n’ riffs style.

Partly as a result of the structuring, though also because of the musicians’ fine chops, En Olam feels easy to listen to. Naturally, some prior exposure to death metal would be useful (don’t sit your grandmother down to this without explanation), though the traditional instrumentation and broad range of metal styles utilized allows Arallu to appeal to most metalheads. The only tastes that are not catered to may include some of metal’s more traditional roots (rock music is not a cornerstone here) and those fond of guitar solos, since the saz takes up the role of lead instrument most of the time. Nevertheless, anyone interested in a small taste of Israel without abandoning metal would be recommended to try En Olam. Arallu have produced a fine album of refreshing extreme folk metal.