Album Review – Al-Namrood / Enkar (2017)

Unafraid of exercising their freedom of speech in their homeland, three dauntless Saudi black metallers keep fighting against tyranny, oppression and authoritarianism with their brand new, distinct and acid album.

Forged in 2008 in the fires of Dammam, the capital city of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and the sixth largest city in Saudi Arabia after Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina and Taif, Black/Folk Metal trinity Al-Namrood is another one of those cases where no matter how talented and bright the band members are, the religious and political leaders of their homeland will do whatever it takes to end their career (not to say something even harsher than that), restricting their reach and forcing them to remain anonymous to stay alive (as you can read in an excellent and very detailed article titled “Witch Hunts, Resurgence and Defiance: Heavy Metal In The Middle East”, published by an online publication named The Quietus). However, the only Black Metal band in Saudi Arabia doesn’t seem to be scared to exercise their freedom of speech with their brand new album Enkar, where once again Al-Namrood translates into first-class metal music their austere position against their own country’s authoritarian regime.

Al-Namrood (or (النمرود‎ in Arabic) means “Nimrod” (which translates to “the non believer”), a Babylonian king who ruled the world maliciously and stated “I am the God of all creation”, and the group chose the name as their form of defiance against religion. After the successful release of their 2010 album Estorat Taghoot, the band decided to shift their focus away from the ancient Babylon land to a hub with deeper Arabian aspect, pronouncing the utter darkness of the Arabian Peninsula and therefore playing what can be called “Arabian Occult Metal”. If you love Black Metal in the vein of bands like Marduk, Darkthrone and Bathory mixed with the most obscure and anti-religious aspects of the music by Candlemass, Black Sabbath and Kreator, all embraced by the unique tones and sounds from the Middle-Eastern culture, then you must take a listen at Enkar as soon as possible, as this album might change considerably your view of underground Extreme Metal.

And those sounds from the Middle-East are joined by metallic lines to form a unique musicality led by the enraged and sick vocals by Humbaba in the opening track, titled Nabth, a feast of eccentricity and sheer madness, with the guitars by Mephisto sounding truly mesmerizing. In addition, the song’s official video, with its images of protests, riots and police brutality from across the Middle-East, match perfectly with the music played by Al-Namrood. Enhancing the lunacy flowing from the guitars, the band offers us Halak, a great display of Orient Metal tailored for banging our heads and prancing together with the band, with highlights to the electrified beats by Ostron; followed by Xenophobia, another acid creation by Al-Namrood that deals with an extremely controversial topic, with Humbaba firing some truly demented vociferations from start to finish to make the final result even more impactful.

Estibdad brings forward a kick-ass hybrid of Folk and Orient Metal where all band members are on fire, in special Mephisto with his slashing riffs, not to mention you can feel the anger and rage flowing from Humbaba’s desperate growls. Efsad keeps the momentum going with its rhythmic drumming and Middle-Eastern-inspired riffs and bass lines effectively delivered by Mephisto, whereas Estinzaf, perhaps the most Heavy Metal (or I should say Black Metal) of all songs, presents more traditional guitar lines and drums, but of course still bringing the band’s own regional twist. Moreover, Humbaba sounds like a Saudi version of the iconic Mike Patton (Faith No More) during the whole song due to the level of lunacy and the weird noises he produces with his voice, which in the end is a very positive complement to the overall result. And in Ensaf we face a darker sonority that grows in intensity as time goes by, with even the vocal lines by Humbaba sounding more obscure and sharper than before, culminating in a mesmerizing pace with hints of progressiveness and Folk Metal elements to boost its taste.

In Egwaa we’re treated to what’s probably their most primeval mode, a hypnotizing and stylish break from all madness from the rest of the album deeply rooted in their own homeland’s traditions and sounds, with their smooth but at the same time extremely potent percussion stealing the spotlight. Then when it looks like that gentle break will still go on for a while, the band returns with an imposing, epic tune titled Ezdraa, transporting the listener to the darkest side of Saudi Arabia, with Ostron kicking some serious ass with his intricate drumming, before Entiqam, a nice ending to such distinct album, showcases a more-demented-than-ever Humbaba, leading the band’s ominous and classy musicality while the song’s Middle-Eastern elements sound heavier, crisper and more piercing than in all previous tracks.

You can enjoy all the madness, violence and hatred from Enkar by listening to the full album on Spotify, and of course purchase this Saudi gem at the Shaytan Productions’ BandCamp, on iTunes, on Amazon, on CD Baby or at Discogs. Al-Namrood, who can be found on Facebook despite the fact the band members have to remain anonymous, not only continue to pave a fantastic path in underground heavy music with this idiosyncratic album, spreading their music all over the world and always moving forward against all odds, but they also serve as some sort of inspiration for other musicians in Saudi Arabia and from any other countries with very strict laws to keep pursuing their dreams and to keep fighting against tyranny, oppression and authoritarianism, all in the name of freedom and metal.

Best moments of the album: Nabth, Estibdad and Ensaf.

Worst moments of the album: Estinzaf.

Released in 2017 Shaytan Productions

Track listing
1. Nabth 3:55
2. Halak 3:17
3. Xenophobia 4:24
4. Estibdad 3:23
5. Efsad 3:03
6. Estinzaf 3:17
7. Ensaf 4:28
8. Egwaa 4:02
9. Ezdraa 4:24
10. Entiqam 5:18

Band members
Humbaba – vocals
Mephisto – guitars, bass, percussion
Ostron – keyboards, percussion

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