Scarab – Serpents of the Nile

Maybe it's just us, but doesn't anyone else find it ridiculous when a band selects a theme to which they have absolutely no cultural connection?  There's a difference in playing a certain style and pretending you're something you're not.  Seriously, think about it.  So when this one came in it had all the earmarks, hallmarks, and dogears of being Middle Eastern-themed metal, most likely of the death variety based on the more grim imagery on the front.  Some sort of pharaoh-headed god or goddess holding a khopesh in one hand?  Pretty clear.  So already you know what our above reference was about, because these guys are, get this, actually from Egypt.  Does it make sense to sing about a culture one is not a part of?  Probably not, and sometimes it's just silly, or too much of a gimmick.  But when you're born in it, raised around it, and know what it actually means, well, then it's something else entirely.  Scarab are all about their roots, everything about this album screams Egyptian from the band's name to the song titles.  They're completely engulfed within a theme that actually works, because it's not something contrived, it's something lived.  But, how does it play out in the music itself?  Let's enter the catacombs and discover.

  

Scarab lay it out thick, and sandy.  It gets in your eyes, your socks, your beard (if you still risk sporting one of those), it's not coming out.  The notes swarm into your ears like so many sandstorms and locusts, engulfing you in the horrors of the desert as the lies of Akhenaten are crumbled before the true gods.  You crawl through the rubble, the fallen busts, you dig, you find yourself surrounded by forgotten relics, but yet, it all feels legitimate.  This is not contrived.  The good thing about Scarab's approach, in consideration of similar bands, is they focus more on technicality with a mid-range style of death metal.  It doesn't sink into brutal force or a whirlwind of crush, the real focus here is on riff and clarity, which is actually quite advantageous, mostly, because of their direction.  Further, Serpents of the Nile sounds genuine because it is genuine.  The feel of 'Egyptian' they've created is like listening to an archaeologist of Egyptian descent discuss the niceties of their culture instead of a Victorian hausfrau chattering about the pyramids or something rather she read about in a short paragraph or two my dear in American Magazine.  We're talking background versus the appearance thereof, if you didn't catch our drift.

 

So that's really where Serpents of the Nile succeeds  When you hear the opener, you know from whence it came, and you know it's legit, not an image.  Even for bands that try to play the part, they simply don't have that closeness in style of Scarab.  And there's plenty of material to get a feel, a dense riffing stretching almost a full hour intermixed with native interludes for extra flavor.  For a further look, one can also not forget the design of the digipak itself, which features a hefty insert with tons of incredible artwork with a more modern, dark schema.  Need to resurrect a god or two to crumble they foes?  Play this, all the way.  Now, we should state that if there's any complaint to be made, it would be that Scarab could use a little more power to enslave.  The technicality and clarity here is almost to the point of redundancy on some occasions, because their application of Egyptian symbolism in sound requires some similarity in approach in every song, and there are a lot of them.  So by the time you're near the end you've found the tracks that shine and are ready to discard the rest.  Still, no doubt, it's upper-rung death metal of the Middle-Eastern variety in a hefty package.  Give it some more kick next time, Scarab, make us fear you, make us fear all that is Egypt.  Remove our organs, dessicate our bodies, and turn us into mummies with your sounds.

 

Scarab Official Facebook

Written by Stanley Stepanic

Scarab – Serpents of the Nile
ViciSolum Records
4.1 / 5