Summer is here, and as someone who listens to black metal during her summer breaks it should come as no surprise that Al-Namrood has come swinging into the forefront of my listening queue. Although most of my forays into black metal have been of the atmospheric quality, Wala’at is something special, as it has stayed with me since I first hit play. Something about its dark influences and quality strike a heavy chord with me.
Wala’at is Al-Namrood’s eighth album in their twelve-year career, which is impressive. It’s also something to consider, as the band comes from Saudi Arabia and their brand of music is against the law and can be punishable by death. To add further insult, Al-Namrood’s specific brand is of the occult kind—the music confirms this, as it oozes rich imagery that remains esoteric. However, this hasn’t stopped the band from releasing albums, almost as a cry of resistance and defiance against the strict religious laws currently in place. Given these qualities, I have to admire the sheer chutzpah these guys have, as they are prepared to die in order to continue their music.
This may come off as surprising, but despite having known of Al-Namrood for years I never listened to one of their records before, and I want to kick myself in the face for it. The music, despite its lo-fi tonality, is both poignant and lush. Everything from the production to the instrumental placement on the record is well-balanced and filled with so many interesting sounds you can’t help but be taken elsewhere. Al-Namrood have a vision for their black metal, and it shows in their instrumentality.
I couldn’t help but listen in awe during some of their instrumental passages, particularly “Kail Be Mekialain” where they mix both Western and Middle Eastern tones into a cohesive unit that blew my mind. Things start to kick off on “Al Shareef Al Muhan,” where the music shifts to an intensity that was hinted to this point but hadn’t leapt towards yet. The sheer heaviness of the drums and guitars gives the music an energetic feel, almost celebratory in nature, as if to say, “Despite everything, this is still alive and kicking.” The immersive, vibrant energy that this track, and the three subsequent tracks, resonated so much with me that I wanted to move, and it almost moved me to tears. Despite the threat of death there is a sheer joy that is so contagious you can’t help but smile along to the music. That set of tracks, from “Al Shareef Al Muhan” to “Aar Al Estibad,” is a delight and subsequently is my favorite aspect of the album.
Despite the minimal production values, Wala’at doesn’t sound like the music that came from the second wave of black metal, where the point was to make music as “ugly” as possible. Instead, the way the music was mixed and produced indicates that, despite their limited resources, Al-Namrood did the best they could with what they had and they were able to create deep, poignant music that can set a person on fire with the dedication they have to their art. The music is crisp and dark, with the usage of softer tones adding both flair and calm to an already rich tapestry of sounds that makes the album sound as chaotic as their cover art.
All in all, Wala’at is an album that fringes on the ethereal by making its music as chaotic as possible. Unlike all the other lo-fi black metal I have been acquainted with, I like Al-Namrood’s approach. For me, it’s something new and different that I want to spend time with, taking in all the sounds, textures, and colors that Wala’at brings.