Review | AL-NAMROOD Defies Authoritarian Faith on Worship the Degenerate

            Religious oppression is still an unfortunate reality in certain places, including the hostile lands of Saudi Arabia, where atheists and agnostics are deemed terrorists, ironically, and death could also be the penalty for renouncing Islam. Even that country isn’t exempt from the omnipresent adversary that is black metal, however, and despite its strict dogmatic enforcement, one Saudi incarnation of this artform has just carried out a new defiant act titled Worship the Degenerate. The ancient Babylonian king of their name, which translates to “non-believer,” is surrounded by mystery, and it extends to AL-NAMROOD as they imbue fierce orchestrations with a distinct Middle Eastern flair. These shadowy maneuvers possess a vehemence favoring the triumph of free thought, and divine powers face scrutiny on Worship the Degenerate while its potent design pushes the resistance onward.  

            Atmosphere is central to this style as acoustic stringed and percussive arrangements evoke an immersive setting, and these dark majestic features permeate the tracks with a unique Saudi Arabian spirit, which is also mirrored effectively in riffing that evolves across detailed courses. This is demonstrated after an instrumental opening on “Protector of the Herd,” where chords pound in time with the beat until an intervallic progression emerges, and flowing patterns guide its descent toward sections of rapid melodic shift matched by rhythmic turbulence. A grooving pace follows with noted oscillations, and melodies persist amid bouts of double bass along with other folkish drum elements. A more upbeat tone is discerned on the title track, with mid-paced and slower tempos highlighting the intricacies of multiple fretted shapes, and some include bursts of tremolo shreddery while others produce hypnotic effects. They precede the heavy blast-beaten arrival of “Guerillas,” and its initial fury delves into areas of riff and folk cooperation that bring out a pronounced savagery in the vocals. A rasped delivery is sustained throughout, but here especially it exercises deeper levels alongside a multi-layered viciousness. The sounds of warfare are revealed within a section of composed steadiness, and the barrage recommences before its intensity fades toward lingering entrancement.  

            Rhythmic variety continues to unfold on “Sun of Liberation,” where a blasting onslaught recurs amid grooving mid-paces, and the groove extends to catchy melodic forms when distorted and Middle Eastern strings converge. Speed picking creates an entrancing quality in the latter, and tremolos are also integrated with the strikes of heavier riff patterns following a chaotic interaction between different melodies. Gongs occasionally punctuate these arrangements, and the rapid pulse of other folk-styled drums enhances a developing sway in the currents. This distinct flow is also noted on “Eclipse,” and vocals deliver their final raging commands before the focus shifts completely to instrumentation on this track. Its opening cavernous aura expands into heavy riff structures layered with corresponding folk notes, and double bass signals a culmination of epic force, which carries the ebb and flow until choral voices emerge from its dissipation. A haunting ambient finale leaves room for contemplation on “Free Will,” with multiple stringed paths weaved in the midst of other textures as a captivating beat takes hold, and mark trees heighten the enchantment for a conclusion demonstrating the magnitude of Saudi Arabia’s musical style.

            Lyrics aren’t contained within the album booklet, which leaves their specific contents unavailable for analysis, but an extensive liner note does provide some insight into the overall themes. The psychology and existential aspects of the superior and inferior are examined, and religion’s role in satisfying many of their respective desires, including ego validation, control, and security are contemplated while exposing its mass enslavement. The nature of gods also arises, with questions on whether they are independent entities or the creations of man to serve those needs. These issues and inquiries hold an enduring significance, and ideally, any answers or interpretations regarding them would be individually sought rather than institutionally dictated.

            I imagine it takes a certain degree of courage for AL-NAMROOD to pursue this style of music and message, considering the governmental forces of their country, and it would be a hope, however slight, that works like Worship the Degenerate might eventually promote a greater tolerance toward spiritual differences in such belief-dominated regions. The running time of 26 minutes leaves questions on its status as a full-length release, but the impact is evocative nonetheless, with engaging riffs and melodic formations coursing throughout multi-leveled rhythms of blasting and groove. These arrangements also reflect the same folk essence as the orchestral features, which saturate the tracks with their Saudi Arabian aura, and fierce vocals affirm the black metal presence alongside those former elements. AL-NAMROOD effectively combines these traditional and extreme influences into a concise listen that balances punishment with enchantment, and the rich atmosphere of Worship the Degenerate will easily satisfy those seeking a unique type of venture.

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