Metal4Africa.com » » Lelahell – Al Intihar Review
Metal as a musical genre is one of the few that is often described (and derived) by location. Swedish Death Metal, Bay Area Thrash and Norwegian Black Metal are all immediately identifiable by their location, even when coming from surrounding regions, and this geographical distinction often shapes the bands surrounding the progenitors. This phenomenon affects African metal in a very strange way. In many respects we are behind the rest of the global metal community for a number of reasons and so bands draw inspiration and influence from these foreign movements, leading to our local scenes not having a coherent, unifying sound in comparison to, say, the “Gothenburg Sound” popularised by At the Gates, In Flames etc. This promotes a diverse range of bands that are all contributing to a single goal, and most recently Lelahell caught my eye (or is that ear?) not only because of their location, but also the variety of influences at play on their debut release.
Based in Algeria, Lelahell is the brainchild of the former frontman of progressive death metal band Litham. Now sans dreadlocks, Redouane “Lelahel” Aouameur certainly has experience and he and his crew released Al Intihar, meaning “suicide”, in January, 2012. It certainly took a while for this EP to arrive on our desk here at Metal4Africa, but half the problem with a continent as big as Africa is keeping track of all the bands that are dotted across the landscape! The album is described by the band as “6 tracks [full of] of brutality through traditional melodies” and while I would argue with that (since the second track is a brief interlude with nary a death growl or blast beat in sight,) that’s where my complaints stop. Al Intihar is raw, no-nonsense death metal that draws from a number of influences and geographies to create a very original and intriguing work.
From the get go you can tell this is a band that means business. The frantic blast beats, straightforward riffing and strong vocals mean there is plenty of room for the various elements to shine. The opening track, “Emperor”, is a great example of this with a rapid fire beginning devoid of technical wankery or substandard riffing. It is simply “metal”! Eventually the riffs break into a more atmospheric clearing before coming full-circle and stopping as quickly as it started. The first track also has an unexpected variety of vocals, from typical death growls to the oft dreaded pig squeal and everything in between, it is a solid showcase of Lelahel’s vocal capabilities. The trend set with “Emperor” carries on through the rest of the album with very traditional metal riffs being given a death metal makeover. There are a lot of musical ingedients going into Lelahell‘s pot and the band’s black metal influence is very apparent; especially on “Into the Past” and is highlighted by their impressive cover of Mayhem‘s classic, “Freezing Moon”. When I say there are a lot of elements at play, I’m not just talking about genres. The aforementioned “Into the Past” contains a number of Arabic/Egyptian Nile-isms while “Hermanos” brings flamenco beats, castanets and traditional clapping to the table. Strange additions to a death metal album you might think, but they all work surprisingly well.
On the subject of production, nothing really stands out as being exceptional, however all of the instruments have plenty of room to breathe and be heard. The guitar tone is also very strong without being too bassy or too trebly, which makes the Mayhem cover that much more listenable. I will say that there are a couple of moments that feel like they are a beat off, but deliberate or not it adds a lot of character to a band in a genre that is plagued by clinical overproduction. I would swear there are more people with opinions about death metal production than there are actual bands in the world!
Lelahell is a band that is both interesting and original; one that has potential to draw foreign listeners in and hopefully discover the rest of the music our continent has to offer. Africa’s geographic diaspora when it comes to metal is both a blessing and a curse. Without a more unifying sound it will always be difficult to make the rest of the world wake up and pay attention, but at the same time bands like Lelahell are able to exist; drawing in a number of ideas, cultures and influences into one coherent element that eventually finds its way onto a disc and into our eardrums.
Watch Lelahell‘s video for “Emperor” off Al Intihar below.