For long I have been preaching the rise of metal from the East. With each discovery of bands and new releases from that region, I feel my evidence is becoming increasingly apparent. As America and UK casts the mainstream light upon acts stuck in a cycle of redundant radio friendly riffs and hooks, groups on the other side of the globe are consistent in pushing experimentation and extremes to the most impressive limit. Now before I have readers grab their pitchforks and torches, I'll clarify and acknowledge that there is definitely amazing acts spawning from Western countries, but simultaneously a large sum of Western groups receiving excess attention while creatively progressing slowly or possibly headed for a dead end.
Arallu is a clear example of why we must turn our heads towards the countries we have too long considered outside the reaches of our metal bubble. With politics painting the people and societies of the Middle East as culturally irrelevant, I find solace in the truth of a blossoming metal scene in such regions. Not only is this group's new record, Six, a potent execution of music more extreme and experimental than a good chunk of Western metal, but Arallu has been putting out envelope-pushing albums since 1999. And I'll be honest, this LP is the first time I'm diving into their music, yet the experience provoked through these songs left me obliged to listen to their previous output thoroughly.
The Israeli act features frontman Butchered (Genie King), guitarists Gal Pixel and Omri Yagen, drummer Assaf Kasimov, and saz and darbuka player Eylon Bart. If you raised your eyebrow in curious confusion regarding those last two instruments mentioned like myself, the former mentioned one is a long-necked lute where the latter is a large hand drum. Essentially, this foreign instrumentation is what propels Arallu into the zone of unfamiliarity and therefore being inherently unique. If you've dabbled in other metal acts who use Eastern musicalities such as Nile, Melechesh, Tengger Cavalry, Demonic Resurrection, or Rudra, you may be more accustomed to this stylization. For those yet inexperienced in this cultural blend of metal and a culture not typically associated with the genre, it may come off as unsettling initially, but with time I assure you that you will fully appreciate this experimentation as I believe it pushes the boundaries even further.
Right off the bat, Arallu wants to make sure the listener knows what they've signed up for. In order to fully establish their identity for anyone unsure, the band opens with "Desert Moonlight Spells," a somewhat minimal piece with percussion, acoustic noodling, and throaty spoken words. While this doesn't fully demonstrate the group's extreme side, it proves to the listener that they aren't some average black metal group. Following track, "Only One Truth," slides smoothly into chaotic territory with the Middle Eastern flair popping up here and there on drums and guitar riffs.
"Adonay" is easily the most loaded track on here. The song crams everything inside including Eastern-tinged melodies, catchy grooves, chanted vocals, black metal havoc, a solid breakdown, and melismatic singing. While I'd say that piece is the most powerful, the amount of heaviness and experimentation leaks onto the remaining seven compositions. "Possessed by the Sleep" and "Philosophers" align more accurately with a blackened thrash act like Skeletonwitch where "The Universe Secrets (Six)" and "Victims of Despair" stay more true to Arallu's cultural identity. Overall though, every song on the record shares both metallic and eccentric Eastern attributes, never drifting to favor exclusively one aspect.
As stated in the beginning, the tension for Middle Eastern influenced and inspired metal to explode into Western mainstream has been building for awhile. Similar to how the Japanese group Babymetal unexpectedly hit the masses, I foresee a band from the Middle East to rise to an equal amount of notoriety. Considering Arallu are now six records deep into their career, they may have missed the window of international hype, but this album is nonetheless explosive and a future stepping stone for those interested in Middle Eastern metal. I highly recommend Six for those interested in stepping outside the comfort zone of Western metal.