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Desert Battles - Descending to the Sands
June 2009
Released: 2009, Raven Music
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz

Metal is a worldwide phenomenon, with audiences and artists alike popping up in all corners of the globe. Israel’s Arallu has been doling out their brand of blackened, eastern influenced metal for almost a decade now, intent on proving that extreme metal can thrive even in the Holy Land. Their latest release and fourth full length, DESERT BATTLES – DESCENDING TO THE SANDS, combines the best elements of old school thrash with a variety of traditional Middle Eastern instruments which results in a collection of abrasively original tunes.

While the band professes a disdain for organized religion in general, DESERT BATTLES uses the harsh, desolate backdrop of the desert to tell tales of ancient Mesopotamian demons and devils. Though the core of the songs aren’t necessarily anything you haven’t heard before, it’s the way the band has utilized indigenous instruments and rhythms that will keep you listening. The fact that the band hails from the desert heartland also lends it some credibility at least at face value, more so than say a band like Nile. The disc offers 9 studio tracks, plus a live bonus track from 2005’s previous disc, THE DEMON FROM THE ANCIENT WORLD. Firmly rooted in all things Celtic Frost and early Slayer combined with just a wee bit of primitive black metal, Arallu proudly wears their influences on their collective sleeves. The production comes across a little thin, but within the stark conceptual setting of the album, it actually works to its advantage.

But the real attraction to DESERT BATTLES is the way the band combines traditional trash riffs with the regional instruments and percussive rhythms. It’s not overly complex, but it adds a nice dimension of color to the picture and you’ll likely hear new things with each listen. There are some instances where I wished the band would put away the toys and get back to business. The horns used in the beginning of “The Demon Curse” are a nice touch, but after a bit it sounds like a kid who has just discovered his first kazoo and is blowing noise at random. Also, the band attempts to layer the aforementioned percussive rhythms into the base mix, but given the thin production, the mix can get cluttered quickly. I also found myself wondering if they have metronomes in the desert, because when everything gets going at full steam the band tends to fall out of sync a little. Whether it’s the performance itself or just the mix I can’t say for certain, but it can get distracting.

All things being equal, DESERT BATTLES is worth checking out if for no other reason than to show some support for a band that’s helping to sustain a metal scene in one of the most unlikely areas of the world. But the fact that the album is pretty good and the band is darn competent makes for even better reasons. Almost ten years strong and doing it for the love of the music, Arallu is the real deal. Arallu does a great job of combining old school thrash with some old school mysticism, making for an album deserving of your attention.
Track Listing

1. The Doom Beating
2. Desert Battles
3. Possessor of the Old Code
4. Old Form of Evil
5. The Union of Babylon
6. The Demon Curse
7. The Keeper of Jerusalem
8. Millchama
9. Al Macabra
10. Battleground (live)


Moti Daniel - Bass, Vocals
Yonatan Dushnitzki - Drums
Gal Cohen - Guitar
Yaniv - Percussion
Yossi Darmon - Session Guitar

Other reviews

» Desert Battles - Descending to the Sands
by Aaron Yurkiewicz

» Geniewar
by UK Team

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