Hilal review by Arkan

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  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.3 (7 votes)
Arkan: Hilal

Sound — 9
Let's be honest, metal is world music. It has a massive following across the Earth, as dvds like Global Metal and Heavy Metal in Baghdad has proven. Like some of the Scandinavian bands that use folk instruments, Arkan is in the category of metal that mixes the brutality of death growls and heavy distortion with traditional instruments. Whereas bands like Nile can seem to have a definite border between haunting acoustics and blasting metal in their songs, Arkan manages to seamlessly merge the two together. Their first album, Hilal, was produced by Fredrik Nordstrm, who has been involved with In Flames, Dimmu Borgir, Arch Enemy, Soilwork, Dark Tranquillity, Septic Flesh and At The Gates. The band members are based in Paris where they recorded their album, but their backgrounds are in Morocco, Algeria and Greece. The drummer, Foued Moukid, has said that they formed Arkan to create a bridge between musical and cultural backgrounds and also revive France's metal scene. If you look up Arkan' in a search you'd likely come across the name of a Serbian war criminal, though that is just an unlucky coincidence. It means Pillars' in Arabic, and so represents the traditional base of what their ancestors were, compared to what they are now. http://www.arkan.fr/eng/ Hilal' means Crescent Moon', a symbol of ancient Mesopotamia and modern Islam, though according to Foued, to them it represents the transition of two extreme states (the full moon and no moon), and so they are trying to suggest that they are running between the extremes of north and south, east and west. And this is exemplified by their album, which is interspersed with the sounds of a busy market. It is like they are performing a metal concert in a Moroccan bazaar (or souk) and makes for an exciting mix.

Lyrics — 8
The concept behind Hilal is ancient Mesopotamian mythology. The man in the market before the first song Groans of the Abyss' tells the crowd to listen to our ancestors' story and then the death growls launch into how mankind will be destroyed by the gods. Although he speaks in Arabic, the songs are in English. The theme can be compared to Viking Metal, where they aren't interested in writing songs involving modern religion so they reach further back into the past for inspiration. There is a female and male vocalist for traditional parts. The female singer is Sarah Layssac, lead singer of The Outburst, who lends her beautiful voice to a very male dominated genre. Adel Abdellaoui is the male vocalist who is a traditional Tunisian singer. The combination of these two over the harsh death growls and occasional clean vocals makes for a sublime experience as Arkan's instruments don't seems to lose any of their oriental feel when filtered through the brutal distortion.

Overall Impression — 8
Arkan are more polished than Melechesh and much heavier than Orphaned Land. Compared to Nile, Arkan are more melodic than technical. Through this they manage to merge traditional instruments and oriental scales more easily into metal, unlike Nile's way of stopping the traditional sound and cutting to the metal. They have a different feel though, so fans of Nile may not be into them and also vice versa. For me, I'm a fan of both, and I think Arkan's Hilal took highest place in my CD stacker, above Those Whom the Gods Detest when I first got it.

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    So...a Muslim Metal band... I don't see it. By the way, I don't think one can call Muslim immigrants to France "French". That's like saying Turkish immigrants to Germany are "Germans". It's just really not true.
    Also, "Arkan" meaning "Pillar" could refer to the 5 Pillars of Islam, which are the following: 1) testimony of faith, 2) prayer, 3) supporting the needy, 4) Fasting during the month of Ramadan, and 5) Pilgrimage to Mecca. I just did a quick google search on the 5 Pillars of Islam to find that out. Btw, I'm a Messianic Jew, not a Muslim. Anyway, just saying that the band's name could have a religious basis. It may not be true, but considering how devout most Muslims are, it wouldn't surprise me.
    Not sure if I dig these guys yet but thank you for an articulate well written review regardless
    Hmm... -Yep, it was released a couple of years ago. -The album was produced in Paris and two of the band members where born in France, the other three main members where born in Algeria. Plus, they've all been living there for a while. Saying they are a French band is easier than saying they are a band 'based in France with two French born members and three Algerian born members' but that, of course, may not be enough information for some. -Their songs aren't about Islam. Saying they're a Muslim metal band is like saying Amon Amarth is a Christian metal band. Their album mostly deals with ancient, pagan Iraq - though they may have Islamic backgrounds; like Amon Amarth deal with ancient, pagan Scandinavia - though they may have Christian backgrounds. As far as I know, they haven't revealed any strongly held religious views in interviews, so if devout Islam is along the lines of Wahabi or fundamentalist Islam (which incidentally forbids music), I don't think they would fit my definition of devout Muslims. I just think they're a bit cutting edge for doing something a bit different and doing it well (all IMHO, of course)!