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Punishing - 85%

MurderNArson, February 4th, 2007

There's pretty much no other way to put it: this album totally annihilates everything in its path. From the first devastating riffs to the grand finale, this disc will tear your face off.

Here, Melechesh manages to combine the intensity and brutality of death metal with the cold, sinister atmosphere of black metal quite successfully (and, thankfully, they do not adopt the production ideals of that latter genre - the sound is crystal clear). The riffs slice like knives, propelled by the wall of percussion behind them, and Melechesh Ashmedi's raspy vocals are placed perfectly in the mix. The dynamics are perfect as well - it's not all a constant pummeling, although the majority of it is. There are slower passages here and there, however, with meandering Eastern noodling or haunting clean guitar to give the listener breathing room and help contribute to the extreme-folk feel the whole album carries. The aforementioned raspy screams are superb, as are the clean, chanting vocals that make occasional appearances (case in point: the absolutely breathtaking climax of the opener, "Rebirth of the Nemesis").

As previously mentioned, one could complain that too many of the songs sound similar, and many of them do, but for once that doesn't bother me. The album flows smoothly from song to song, the intensity builds and wanes and builds again, and then you're knocked on your ass by a passage as brutal as anything you've ever heard, then it ebbs again. Through it all, aided by the folk melodies of the riffs, leads, and interludes, runs the sinister and distinctly Middle Eastern atmosphere mentioned above. As you probably know already, the band hails from Israel, and they've manages to infuse their blackened death metal with a very ethnic sound.

It's hard to pick out individual highlights, but "Rebirth of the Nemesis" and "Gyroscope" are probably the cream of the crop. All the songs are pretty spectacular, and there's no reason to ever use your skip button (except for possibly the instrumental "The Scribes of Kur," which is just a bit longer than it ought to be).

Bottom line: definitely one of the finest albums of 2006 - which, in such a good year for music, is saying something. Absolutely worth picking up if you can find it.