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AETERNAM - Al Qassam (Self-Released - 27 March 2020)
9 tracks - Duration: 44 min. 49 sec.
Early 2020, together with some 30ish other survivors, I had the absolute privilege to get to listen to the premiere of 'Al Qassam' in Viking Crown Lounge of the Independence of the Seas during 70,000 Tons of Metal. Goosebumps! The audience just loved it at first sight - err, hearing. Later on, I enjoyed their epic pool deck set under the Caribbean full moon at 5 o'clock in the morning, something they already pulled off back in 2018. Little did I know that it would be one of the last memorable concerts of the year. Thanks, but no thanks to Covid-19. 'Al Qassam' means 'The Oath' and is the 4th full length of this Canadian Oriental Metal outfit. The debut 'Disciples of the Unseen', the sold-out 'Moongod' and the fantastic 'Ruins of Empires' preceded this release.
These passionate & friendly musicians successfully set up a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo to be able to self-release this album. Fun fact: end of April they shipped my digipack copy... I received it 3 months later (I guess due to being stuck in customs and Covid-19 delays). It was all well worth the wait though. The silver disc has been spinning on repeat ever since.
'Al Qassam' produces the ultimate blend of crushing brutality and melodic guitar lines. Achraf effortlessly alters from growls to supreme clean singing (sometimes in Arabic). The catchy melodies get stuck in your head and haunt you for days. Don't be mistaken, despite the sense of melody, this is ferocious & fast. What I like most about this album is the balance, the variation.
The opening track and title track 'Al Qassam' immediately sets the tone and delivers Aeternam's typical trademark: Oriental Metal which conjures the dead with deafening blast beats, aggressive vocals while cleverly combining this with addictive, magical melodies & skilled cleans. The same duality is maintained throughout ' The Bringer of Rain'. 'Lunar Ceremony' brings shivers down your spine with clean vocals only, majestic harmonies, and particularly pounding drums, fittingly accompanied by Mahafsoun's belly dancing in the video clip. 'Ithyphallic Spirits of Procreation' opens with some light Arabic acoustics to burst out into one of the more brutal tracks of the album, while still respecting the art of songwriting by not continuously pushing the pedal, but also lowering the tempo and letting the guitar leads flow through. 'Palmyra Scriptures' steps on the break with a mix of Arabic and English dreamy chants coming Achraf's vocal cords. The epic 'Hanan Pacha' immerses you in the atmosphere of 1001 Nights yet fierce double bass drumming and blast beat salvos never render this mellow. The heavenly leads of 'Celestial Plains' take you into higher spheres. 'Ascension' is no different: the contradictory symbiosis between peaceful tunes and outbursts of violence is constant. 'Poena Universi' is a heroic sounding song, complete with choirs, for fans of Septic Flesh.
Several guest musicians add an extra dimension with the use of classical, exotic instruments and even some choirs.
It is a pity that the lyrics are not included with the album, they really seem interesting -they were enthusiastically elaborated about during the sneak preview- and are dealing with rituals, mythology, and the occult. You can find a brief summary of each song text on this page, as shared on their Instagram page. Demons are summoned at your own risk while singing along!
The icing on the cake is the smashing artwork of Eliran Kantor, who is known for his cover art for a.o. Testament, My Dying Bride, Hate Eternal, Bloodbath, Ex Deo, Kataklysm, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Sodom, Incantation, Havok, Krisiun.
Highly recommended for fans of Melechesh, Nile, Orphaned Land, and Septic Flesh. If you don't believe me or if you are not yet familiar with this band, then what are you waiting for, I made it easy for you, check out the links on this page to their work now! Mark my words, these guys are going to make it. Labels, make sure to be the first to sign this band, hurry up. Everyone else, prepare to get hooked!
9.5 out of 10 skulls