Friday, January 10, 2014

REVIEW: Nafarmaan - Quayamat Lullaby [EP] (Bangladesh)

Band – Nafarmaan
Release – Quayamat Lullaby
Type – EP
Label – MTD Productions
Origin – Dhaka, Bangladesh
Date of Release – 2014
Number of Tracks – 4
Playing Time – 27:03
Genre – Black/Death Metal

1. Quyamat Lullaby
2. Bloodsoaked Revelation
3. Leashed Silence
4. Godless Messiah
From the very inception of human civilization in this vast geographic area that has over time been the melting pot of a various racial types, ethnicities, cultures and religions, South Asia is a region that has been subject to vast socio-political, cultural and demographical changes at large since time immemorial. The ancient kingdom of Angadesha has in particular been swamped with such changes over the course of history, and has been split into two wholes courtesy of the two dogmas that perpetually seem to divide man – politics and religion. Nafarmaan is yet another mighty force from the other half of this land – Bangladesh. Having formed in 2008, the etymological origins of the band name derive from the Arabic and Farsi fraction of Urdu, denoting the most harrowing and vilest of curses in Islam, connoting the ultimate deviant and blasphemer, also bringing under its purview the adherents of all ‘false’ religions – in essence, the despised and detested in the context of Islamic orthodoxy. Quayamat Lullaby is the debut EP of this Bangla horde, a brief release with four songs. The word Qayamat denotes the Day of Judgement in Islamic theology. The first thing that comes to mind when one comes across a black/death metal band is that you either expect outright Blasphemy worship, or the band takes the conventional route of the two other variants of this hybid genre – the more atmospheric and sonically dense variant and the more acidic, grinding and melodicity-laden brand of blackened death metal.

However, Nafarmaan presents a very different aesthetic from what you’d expect from a band in this niche genre. The manner in which the band blends the two genres is fairly unique, with no qualms apropos dabbling in melody and other off-beat elements such as clean guitars, traditional chant-like dirges and the like. Comparisons to Weapon with regards to similar amounts of sensible melody will inadvertently arise, although the two ultimately sound quite different from each other. What furthermore makes the assessment of this EP a difficult task of sorts is the fact that each track presents a unique orchestration of the same dynamics relative to the track that precedes it. Make no mistake however, this isn’t some sort of stripped down black/death metal release conveniently hiding behind opaque vagaries of song-writing – all the elements of the bestial black/death metal are very much present here, with the signature successive phrases of devastation injected with an inherent sense of thunderous recursion being more than evident. Riffs flow atop a blasting structural skeleton, gashing out in an unrelenting manner, evolving within a brief phrase, alternating between racing formations of tremolo-picked chords with a concomitantly black metal sense of euphony and the cumbersome sense of syncopation-driven, riveting rhythmic formation  that has come to characterize death metal.

The basic riff idea here are all fairly derivative of the larger realm of black/death metal, being the juxtaposing of lengthier tremolo-picked mono-rhythms with muffled death metal riffs which are illuminated by a blasting percussive background that helps to accentuate the riff ideas, while ushering in some tempo changes in itself. Nohttzver, well known for being a founding member of and the man behind the iconic logo of Weapon dishes out some really fantastic fills, and the percussive dynamics as a whole courtesy of his adept drum chops are very gratifying. The tone of the drums is especially menacing while still being technically adept and well thought out, without descending into any mindless savagery. This, in addition to bringing into the mix, song-writing elements that would otherwise be considered surprising, perhaps even abhorrent in the context of a black/death metal band, such as the incorporation of some bombastic but rather enjoyable grooves, as the opening and title track ‘Quayamat Lullaby’ reveals. Marhoum’s bass truly shines through in these brief phrases. The guitar solos indulge themselves in a sense of tormented atonality (although not overwhelmingly so), coiled around emotive leads, and as already mentioned, the axe-attack of the guitarists (Agnee Azaab and Nohttzver who serves as an addition studio guitarist) itself has an innate sense of emotiveness and a certain intensity. Many segments within songs have phrases that have a candor and simplicity of sorts that presents an inherently ‘eastern’/Oriental sensibility, almost as if these very melodies could be played on a more traditional instrument, such as the Ektara.

Thematically, the band invokes an iconoclasm of sorts that goes hand in hand with the emotional quotient and story-telling ability of the melodies. The title track for instance chronicles the advent of chaos during the Day of Judgement. Such themes in turn effectively paint abstractions of misanthropy and a certain epiphanic disillusionment. The clean guitars on a track like ‘Leashed Silence’ attests to this, as do the vocals of Imam Iblis, a stressed, thunderous and hoarse attack with has a heightened degree of enunciation which reinforces this prudent nihilism. Back up vocals of a more histrionic nature are provided by the ever versatile Nohttzver, as is the case in 'Bloodsoaked Revelation'.

The production of the EP on the other hand is a litle murky, perhaps taking away from tracks that would otherwise truly stand out in a well produced mix. While all the instruments are perfectly audible, there is an innate sense of jarring that results in an atmosphere that impression on one as congealed and perhaps even a little sterile. But of course, given this is merely a debut EP and the band may well have been working with both limited time and resources, one can look past this for the most part, especially if one is used to listening to bands who purposely opt for a low fidelity aesthetic (which most seeking out this EP would have, assumably).

In essence, this is a very admirable effort by Nafarmaan, and is slightly brought down due to its production values, although the song-writing ideas still manage to shine through. This isn't an avenue for immediate appeasement, but instead grows on you due to its inherent off-beat approach, laden with native sensibilities and a non-conformance apropos traditional blackened death metal. The charm of this release is in the distinctive yet subtle touches that the band adds to their aural canvas, with an admittedly arcane eastern allure to it, be it the chanted and spoken word passages, usage of cleaner tones or of ambiance-inducing sound samples. I for one look forward to more from these Banglas, who've surprisingly managed to forge a new approach in this largely derivative sub-genre, much like their (originally) fellow compatriots and sonic relatives in Weapon.
Rating – 8.8/10
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