Taken from the children’s book Watership Down, black metal group El-Ahrairah’s name translates to ‘Prince of a Thousand Enemies.’ But when they create music as great as what’s presented on their first full length release, following a slew of demos’ it’s hard to imagine that they would have as many enemies decrying their efforts here.
The production may be raw and perhaps slightly muddy, but this comes across as arising from a degree of necessity stemming from lack of time and funds rather than a genuine aesthetic desire to sound grim and necro. Indeed this is not a slab or frostbitten blastbeating second wave worshipping black metal, instead the sound here is warm, gorgeous and melodic. The main emphasis El-Ahrairah put into their music is the depth of these gorgeous melodies, just listen to the lovely shimmer of synth in the middle of Drown Alone or potential commercial success Madeline and Edmund. Their melodic sense seems to be rooted in post-rock, with pleasant and infectious riffs played high up the fretboard, creating memorable and beautiful tunes without any need for solos or wankery, the lead guitar being the loudest part of the mix most of the time, with the rhythm a trebly and raw slab of blackened distortion bubbling away under the surface.
Indeed all the songs here are short and to the point, with nine tracks at barely over half an hour, they allow no room for anything superfluity or pretension, they just take you from one awesome riff to the next.The vocals are high pitched screams which bring to mind the elitists’ scourge Deafheaven, but with it’s completely riff-centric approach it’s beauty filtered through a pure black metal aesthetic that would placate any Darkthrone fan. The bass tone is warm and audible throughout with it’s simple riffage, and other than a few places such as White Kingdom featuring all out blastbeats, the drums mostly punch through the melodic riffs with a rhythmic snap. The tracks are all varied, with each showing a penchant for melody. White Kingdom is more of a traditional black metal piece with a dark wall of sound and blasts, Drown Alone is a punchy catchy track with emotional melodic riffwork, Melanie and Edmund is sweetly beautiful with stirring synths in a track that could be a big indie hit, while closer Rind of the Earth could rival the most epic black metal bands out there with it’s big sound and clean vocals.
Perhaps the cover itself is an indication of the album’s contents. There isn’t a black metal label in the world without at least several covers plastered with images of trees or forests. But with the warm reds and playful pastel style, El-Ahrairah’s seems to show that they play fully fledged black metal but turned on its head – a warm, inviting and endearing listen rather than obeying the usual tropes of harsh, raw and scathing. It’s limited to just 100 cassettes, so if they receive the due attention deserved from this release, then you’d be wise to pick up a copy sooner rather than later.
Stream and purchase El-Ahrairah at bandcamp below.