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A chaos of black metal and folk - 60%

gasmask_colostomy, December 2nd, 2019

Though not quite the album where Israeli extreme metallers Arallu most embraced traditional instrumentation, third full-length The Demon from the Ancient World certainly carries a hefty dose of folk with it. Listening to the jaunty melodies of ‘The Devil’s Massacre’, one might wonder how a massacre could be so merry, even if a bit of blasting late in the song makes more sense in the context. Generally speaking though, Arallu hadn’t quite sorted out their style from that of their influences, meaning that the song in question sounds strangely like a primitive Bathory tribute at other moments, while ‘The Dead Will Rise Again’ opens with a tumbling thrashy riff and a scream ripped right from Tom Araya’s throat.

My expectations thus go up and down quite a lot during Demon, wondering at times whether anyone needed to make such deliberate overtures to seminal bands, while also hearing some original moments that are worthy of praise. Since a large part of the album’s 47 minutes passes at intense high pace, a slightly chaotic feeling holds sway, which is certainly to the benefit of those attending for the black metal, though not really for the other intentions that Arallu had regarding the folk sections. Quite often, the bridge between the two styles seems stark, such as when ‘War Spirit’ dances straight out of jaunty jigging and into an intro straight from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, which picks up into frantic cold blasting after a gale of strained vocals. A few defects in the production don’t help – not with the dry guitars and drums sounding scratchy during songs like ‘The Seven Chosen Genii’ – though song structuring is more the issue.

As a result, I expect that folk fans will feel put off by the extremity and conservativeness of the black metal sections, while the mood of the folk parts might pour cold water on any kvlt enthusiasm (not that enthusiasm is kvlt, obviously). It’s not that Arallu produced a poor album with Demon, more that the position of the group back in 2005 may not have made their direction very clear, resulting in a lack of originality at times and an odd way of introducing the original ideas when they do appear. The drumming, though no longer a product of a drum machine, seems a little clumsy at times, stumbling through ‘Kill Kill Kill’ like drunk hardcore punk trying to emulate a black metal style. By contrast, many of the typical black metal moments show an impressive control of the kit. In short, The Demon from the Ancient World was a significant step for Arallu, though not really a coherent listen from an outside perspective.