Al-Namrood - Astfhl Al Tha’r
Shaytan Productions
Arabian Black Metal
10 songs (49:18)
Release year: 2009
Shaytan Productions
Reviewed by Goat

Following on from their EP, reviewed here earlier in the year, Saudi three-piece Al-Namrood present their full length debut, and it’s not a huge advance. Several songs are re-recorded for here, and the overall sound is the same – to be honest, ten songs of this is pushing it a little, and although track lengths vary between four and eight minutes , there’s little real variety. The base sound is driven by the oriental aspects, the hand-percussion and Middle-Eastern instruments mixing well with the Black Metal guitar, but the band never seem sure what to do with this little creation of theirs, tracks tending to fade out just as you become truly engrossed. Strangely, some songs seem rawer than others, Entesarat Al Ashawes feeling more ‘demo’ quality in some ways, the ethnic elements toned down slightly in favour of guitar and atmospheric keyboards which give it hints of an epic Negură Bunget-y feel.

Being fair to the band, Astfhl Al Tha’r is a pretty darn good album. Sitting and listening to this with your eyes closed is quite an experience, taking you away to eastern deserts, sat around campfires hearing this often eerie music forming from nothingness – this is far from a Darkthrone clone, and the fact that the band have created their own sound rather than aped another’s is praiseworthy enough. Al-Namrood’s problem really isn’t the atmospheric nature of the music, they have that aspect of their sound down perfectly, and there isn’t a track present that doesn’t have its own punch. The problem comes when you listen to Astfhl Al Tha’r in a single sitting, as it lacks those little peaks and troughs that all the best albums have to keep the listener going, to keep concentration fixed firmly on the music instead of wandering. It’s hard not to have your attention wander, really.

In my review of Atba’a Al-Namrood, the aforementioned EP, I complained that the band weren’t coherent and restrained enough, and up to a point those criticisms still hold true. Al-Namrood seem happy to find their sound and stick to it here, when what is really needed is a bit of something different – as good as the slow melodies of the seven-minute Ya'jooj Wa Ma'jool are, as creepy as the demonic growls of vocalist Mukadars are, I find myself wishing that the band had left off the poor-sounding programmed drums on following track Jabaroot Al Shar, as the hand percussion is more than enough, and rarely used in Black Metal to make it interesting. It’s not enough to completely ruin the album, but it is something that could be fixed next time to make the next release even better. Astfhl Al Tha’r is a debut album, and deserves to be looked at as such, but I can’t help looking ahead and imagining even better things to come from this band, and indeed their MySpace states that they’ve begun work on the next album, a concept piece about Nebuchadnezzar, ancient King of Babylon. This is certainly an original band that deserves your support, but they’ve not released their best work yet.

Killing Songs :
Ebadt Al Bashar, Seher Aswad
Goat quoted 74 / 100
Other albums by Al-Namrood that we have reviewed:
Al-Namrood - Estorat Taghoot reviewed by Charles and quoted 80 / 100
Al-Namrood - Atba’a Al-Namrood reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
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