Black Death Metal with Middle Eastern influences is the genre tag that NARJAHANAM (thank whoever invented it for copy and paste!) bear with their debut album “Undama Tath'hur Al Shams Mn Al Gharb” (now I am even more grateful for it!!!) and it is rare that a categorization like this hits the truth as close as in this case.
The Middle Eastern influences do not come as a surprise at all, as the duo hails from the Arab kingdom of Bahrain, where it is a little surprising, though, that they actually allow Metal, but hey, they’re around, so might just as well do it, right? Mardus and Busac chose a very fitting band name as well, as NARJAHANAM stands for “hellfire” in Arabic, and there is some Black, some Death, some Doom (as most of the tracks are rather slow in tempo) and indeed Middle Eastern influences to be detected and it is especially these, which give the songs this unique flair, making them stand out from the many other bands of this style out there.
Unfortunately there also are a few drawbacks that I have to point out, the first of these is the relative repetitiveness of some of the songs, mostly due to the often sluggish tempo, but at the same time I have to admit that the speed (or lack of) goes very well with the kind of mystic atmosphere of the songs, where especially the keyboards stand out, which never get too upfront, but convey this oriental feeling, while some authentic instruments (which unfortunately are not named, but you can hear in the percussion that this is not just a regular drum computer) and leads add to this. And the growls of Mardus add a menacing quality to the compositions, which befit the lyrical concept, which deals with such nice things as the end of the world and the blood-soaked Arab history, so the duo definitely tries its best to create a full package here. The second drawback is relative and lies in the a little flat production, but then again, it is probably dangerous business to play Black Metal in Bahrain and the quality of studios, where you’d be allowed to record stuff like this probably is not necessarily too high either.
It is hard for me, though, to pick out single songs, as they all have their moments, which are further enhanced by the use of exclusively Arabic lyrics (there are English translations of the titles provided). I must warn you though, at first listen the album might seem a bit bland, but once you dig in a little deeper, you will find more and more details, which show that “Undama Tath'hur Al Shams Mn Al Gharb” is far more than it might seem at first, as it is able to take you onto a journey into the history of the region (even if you don’t understand a word of what Mardus spits forth), because this has great and deep atmosphere and that is more than many others can claim. Surely there still is room for improvement, but this is a very promising debut that I definitely want to hear more of!
(Online June 12, 2008)