Lelahell – Alif (2018) REVIEW

Active as a musician and tireless supporter of Arabic extreme metal worldwide since the mid-90’s Algerian guitarist, vocalist and composer Lelahel aka Redouane Aouameur (Litham, Neanderthalia) was there for many of the country’s earliest metal milestones be it concerts or extreme metal album releases. As he moved on from death metal project LithamAouameur chose the path of self-direction and built his own ideas in the shape of the brutal and distinct death metal style of Lelahell. The project’s second full-length is a point of readiness, a mark that sets out onto a more capable and serious beginning. ‘Alif’ is not only a ripping technical death metal album but also a grand survey providing a blueprint for things more philosophical, technical and violent to come.

Written, performed, and recorded entirely by Aouameur alone the band’s first EP ‘Al Intihar’ (2012) was brutal death metal not far from 2000’s era Vader but with it’s own groove. The incorporation of arabesque scales persist through Lelahell‘s discography but the influence of Arabic melody wouldn’t fully light aflame until ‘Al Insane… The (Re​)​birth of Abderrahmane’ (2014) where comparisons were more aptly made with Melechesh, Beheaded and Nile. A brutal and straightforward debut full-length in appearance, as it plays ‘Al Insane… The (Re​)​birth of Abderrahmane’ reveals depth beneath it’s loudly chugging brutality but now it is easily outmoded by the skillful crafting of ‘Alif’.

Elements of thrash, black metal, and a healthy dose of technical death metal skill meld into the body of ‘Alif’ creating a patiently rhythmic experience thanks to Aouameur‘s sharp guitar work and session drums from Hannes Grossman (Alkaloid, Hate Eternal) who is best known for his time in Necrophagist and Obscura. A glut of guest artists contribute guitar and bass spots including Tom Geldschläger (ex-Obscura),  Yacine M. (Litham), Patrick Mameli (Pestilence), bassist Hafid Saidi and their contributions help give the album some exotic variety and some considerable progressive flair. Because the heart of Aouameur‘s riffs are a mix of old school/brutal death and blackened death metal ‘Alif’ manages a warm and technique driven feeling throughout thanks to a mix/master from the Wiesławski brothers at Hertz Studio (Azarath, Decapitated, Vader).

‘Alif’ provides some great promise for the future of Lelahell as the intentioned ‘standard bearer’ for future releases. As overused as Arabic folk melody and certain guitar scales may seem in extreme metal this implementation is rarely done with any authenticity, Arallu and AlNamrood have done great justice with these influences, and the same skillful weaving of personal and cultural importance is felt on ‘Alif’ as well. This also includes lyrical themes covering numerous topics, with the open wounds of post-occupational Algeria occasionally on display. There is a spirit of rebellion alongside a certain aging wisdom to discover within the thoughtful content of ‘Alif’ and this makes me even more excited to hear where the project will go next.

No doubt that a lot of listeners will show up looking for something hyper progressive and technical due to Grossman‘s inclusion but I would temper that with the more reasonable expectation of tight musicianship with songwriting that isn’t self-indulgent or focused on flair above feeling. The delivery is precise and brutal in every case but I was left carrying the intricate melody and rhythms of ‘Alif’ in my mind after many listens. I’d highly recommend this to folks who have some great love for groups like Melechesh and Arallu but also the brutality of post-millennium era death metal (Polish and USDM, especially) with touches of modern technical and progressive death metal.

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Artist Lelahell
Type Album
Released June 15, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Metal Age Productions’ Bandcamp! Follow Lelahell on Facebook
Genre Death Metal,
Technical Death Metal

Erroneous perceptions. 3.85/5.0

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