Monday, May 9, 2011

Arafel - For Battles Once Fought (2011)

Soviet born youngsters. Folk influences. Black metal elements. Death metal style. Viking metal vocalist. Those five things could easily be used to describe an entire tour's worth of bands. But in this case, all of them come together in one Israeli monster, known as Arafel. Derived from the Hebrew word for "fog," this five piece will certainly leave your vision blurred, and your ears ringing with their own brand of epic war metal.

Pounding drums and the sounds of war build to a fever pitch, and "Sword's Hymn" has begun! Lightning quick drumming and guitars pave the way for an array of vocal styles. Low end growls alternate with blackened screams. Viking chants enter, while a soft violin adds another texture to the fold. This is headbanging music at its finest, through verse and chorus to a dizzying breakdown section. "Kurgan" enters as a folk piece, with a well constructed intro, allowing the violin to duet with a distorted guitar. Harsh, grating vocals are the norm, treading with a heavy foot over time signature changes and flowing guitar hooks.

An acoustic guitar riff, beautiful and brief, leads you to "The Siege." Uptempo drumming forms a gallop of sorts, before descending into pure chaos. Roll after roll, leading to thunderous crashes. Cutting through the dark is a guitar solo that will bring you to your knees. Even at high speeds, instruments stay in sync, locked with dooming vocals. As catchy a guitar melody as you will ever hear highlights "1380: The Confrontation," contrasted by the depth and power of scream after scream. With growls and screeches in bunch, often delivered together, you may feel as though Satan himself is calling out to you. Strings, horns and crunchy guitars reiterate the opening melody as the track closes.

Whipping winds fill the background of "The Last Breath Of Fire." The folk influences are evident here, though kept in a darker reality. Chants rings out over the flurry of drums and guitar riffs. "Im Feld" is a slaughter of epic proportions, with soaring scales and drums that continue to punish you, from kick to snare, tom to cymbal. A brilliantly executed stop and start breakdown are sure to earn a nod, preparing you for a down tempo stomping outro.

"Wolf's Hunt" offers a short reprieve before grabbing you by the throat. Violin and keyboards get a starring roll, playing the melody through the major sections, with beautifully orchestrated chants and choirs filling  the air. The raspy screams lead the way, stopping only to insert a true death growl. "Death Of Archaic World" is the epitome of a closing track. The band are now at full throttle, with every influence present and accounted for. Everyone gets a turn, from a heavy handed, hammering drum beats to a dance inducing violin. You will both fear and look forward to the war.

What more can be said about a band, and album, that seem to have it all? Arafel have become something more than death, something more than folk, something more than viking or black metal. Through the years, they have evolved into a genre unto themselves. Maybe they can become the founding fathers of Israeli blackened Viking folk death metal. Consider it done.


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