Enkar by AlnamroodRelease date: May 16, 2017
Label: Shaytan Productions
Listening to Al-Namrood is a special experience. I realise that I have the freedom I to listen to this music, to be making this music (if I had the talent for it). It’s a side of Al-Namrood that I find hard to let go when listening to Enkar. I wonder how much the situation in Saudi Arabia has influenced the creation of this record. Al-Namrood is an act of defiance, in every touch of the strings, in every beat in every word it seems to reverberate.
Because regardless of the looming death penalty for the members of Al-Namrood if they’d be discovered, they keep making records. There’s a special power to the music, something that immediately hits you. The words and music are an act of rebellion against all injustices in the country, bandleader Mephisto has told an interviewer (in fact, there’s only one interview that was done face to face, which you can find here in Dutch).
The cover of Enkar appears to express this, where a circle of bearded devils cheer on an executioner, who is beheading human figures with a red A drawn on their shirts. A pile of heads appears to the right. A lot of symbolism seems to be worked into the design. The logo features a circled A, the sign of anarchism. It fits with the concept, Al-Namrood means ‘the non-believer’, referring to an ancient tyrant who forcefully opposed religion. It all matches up, anarchism, the mythical Nimrod, they express the strength of the individual, freedom and self-determination.
The sound on Enkar has a synthetic side to it, which has everything to do with the limited production tools, instruments and so forth. It probably doesn’t require explanation that getting equipment is equally impossible in the land of origin. In the sound we have the black metal side, which really seems to lean towards the primitive originators of the genre. On the opening track ‘Nabth’ we immediately get hit by a raw wall of guitar. Think Bathory, think Darkthrone. Solid, guitar waves just barrel into you and capture that fist-pumping aggression of those early records.
But then there’s another side, that I feel is very well represented on ‘Xenophobia’. A theatrical, expressive intro takes us to the Orient. The proclaimed words sound like those of a doomsayer, full of foreboding and dread. Typical music from those parts is then woven into the blast beats (which really have a punky character here). The music then is still completely direct, filled with fury and venom. The oriental elements create a specific otherworldly feeling, at least to my western ear. It’s the sound of places unknown, places that are terrifying. You can feel the evil spirits of the Arab myths floating around, but in a sense they are very real.
Though most songs stick to the same formula, dragging the listeners by their hairs or other appendixes into a funnel of bitter, blistering guitar play and barked vocals, this record keeps you interested. Again you find a particular sound, or like on ‘Ensaf’ a fascinating intro that is majestic and enthralling. Here the Al-Namrood manages to present an epic sound. The catchy riff work makes you feel more familiar with the song. Then it’s just the vocals that are peculiar, somewhere between ranting, barking or desperate whimpering, they really convey the grim world Al-Namrood is expressing.
I’m pretty sure that Al-Namrood is not for everyone. The sound really doesn’t stick to pure black metal but borrows a lot from punk. Everything about this record is different and for me personally, I can’t let go of the background of this band. This is music with a mission, an album with a message. A searing intensity in the music, an urgency to the words. The production is rough, the mix imbalanced, but the power this record had is hard to deny.