Review Summary: The big surprise here is that it doesn't suck, to be honest
Arafel are starting to get some buzz in the underground metal world, the deep, dark cave that knows about the next big thing two to three months before Blabbermouth and its minions do, and to keep you from having to read any further, they have actually earned that buzz with For Battles Once Fought
. Get this: they make folksy melodic black metal that doesn’t suck. It should, though. Yeah, it should
But it doesn’t. And for the longest time I had to figure out why these Israelis didn’t suck, as opposed to why they were actually good, if you can follow what I mean there. For one thing, the music they play, unless you have never heard it before, which could be a good or bad thing, has been done before for years, decades even. And the legends of the subgenre have already come and subsequently passed away: enter/exit Windir
. And another thing: even if this stuff wasn’t old to begin with, the ingredients of the music should sound really awful when put together. Seriously, folksy sing-songy black metal shouldn’t really work. It should be terrible. Yet for all of For Battles Once Fought
’s preconceived, and unfair, limitations of the subgenre involved, it rules. In fact, it even sounds modern
, that is, strong production, more or less un
-black metal-like, yet it still rules.
To Arafel’s credit, and as being the main reason why the folk element of the metal offered on For Battles Once Fought
doesn’t totally suck, the band uses this violin player, Nasha, instead of a bunch of lol-flutes. No, this isn’t Primordial
or anything like that kind of black folk metal – it’s still got that fast folky, gay thing about it, yet it succeeds: it’s gay-sounding without being gay, more or less. Like, the album begins on “Swords’ Hymn” with the sounds of battle, death, and, uh, horses and then follows into some charging riffs complimented with Nasha’s bow and doesn’t let up from there. You'll find that it throws what you’ve heard before at you and challenges you to dismiss it, yet you will find you simply cannot meet that challenge.
Don’t take the music ‘never letting up’ literally, though, because, thankfully, the band switches tempos and time signatures throughout the course of For Battles Once Fought
fairly often. Yes, it is
progressive music, though Emperor
this is not. It’s folky melodic black metal with some, uh, zest, some spunk
and variation. “Wolfs Hunt” plays with the band’s ability to mix and match the elements of their sound to make one killer, complete track. Beginning on keyboards and environmental sounds, ghosts and winds and more, uh, battle crap, the song builds steadily on top of acoustics and a driving drum beat until the guitars and violin come in for the main dish. The surprising part is that isn’t cheesy either.
And for the Wylie in us, the music lover that loves to rape, kill, and pillage, there are songs like “I’m Feld” that are more straightforward melodic black assaults, progressive elements light and placed on the side. Sure, For Battles Once Fought
may need more of these instances – there’s a tad bit of a polarity problem as far as the songwriting goes – but for the most part Arafel are able to please metalheads everywhere with what they offer here. On paper, highly produced melodic folk black metal shouldn’t be all that great in this day and age, ‘mediocre at best’, more or less, but these Israelis pull out an excellent album, well worth the bit of hype and buzz they’ve been generating in the underground. Gear up and head to war in 2011, guys, with Arafel leading the way.