BLAAKYUM – Lord of the Night [Review]

Genre: Heavy Metal/Thrash
Label: Self-Released
Released: January 13th, 2012
Reviewer: Kareem Chehayeb

It took Blaakyum, Lebanon’s oldest active metal band, 15 years to release their debut full-length…makes “Time” (Wintersun) sound like a rushed album. Blaakyum is a band incredibly well known around Lebanon and has a very solid and unique lineup. The band began in 1995, split up in 2001, and returned in 2007. They represented Lebanon in the 2007 Global Battle of the Bands and were placed in the top 10 in the finals, which took place in London. The band consists of Jad on drums, Rany on bass, Elias on lead guitar (also plays lead for Weeping Willow), and founder, Bassem, on vocals and guitar (also vocalist for Syrian band, The Hourglass). Lord of the Night was recorded and mixed in Lebanon and mastered in Cutting Room Studios in Sweden (Meshuggah, Hypocrisy, Behemoth, In Flames). This album is for those who love Testament, Megadeth, orchestral, and Lebanese music (to a certain degree).

The album opens up with Dark Moon, a three-minute intro of orchestral goodness, courtesy of Wissam Tabet. Choirs, pizzicato violins, and cellos that eventually morph into an Epica-like symphonic metal passage that ends with a gong. Lord of the Night, which is the first full track of the album, follows in relatively smoothly. Sounds a bit like something that would come off of Megadeth’s Rust in Peace with a Lebanese-edge to it. Bassem’s vocals really impressed me. He is incredibly versatile. The chorus has such a catchy tune and a great melodic atmosphere that differs from the relative groove of the rest of the song. Bassem’s vocal chords take abuse with the intensity of singing, whether he’s hitting some falsettos, growls, or even what sounds like tenor operatic singing. Elias’ solo is phrased well, a combination of catchy melodies with some technical playing, and the orchestras punching behind the rhythm parts sound surprisingly well. Overall, it was an enjoyable song.

Another old track that is popular amongst the fans of the band has also been included on this, the awkwardly titled “Am I Black”, a song Snoop Dogg won’t be too fond of. Title aside, it’s a very cool song. The orchestra in the beginning is beautiful, and the tune is reminiscent of contemporary (but not too contemporary) Middle Eastern music. Bassem’s operatic singing is fantastic, and the growls in the interlude sound demonic. It’s a very catchy song and it was definitely well done and improved from the demo released in 98 with that title.

The Land is a unique track on the album as well. It’s the track that Middle Eastern and folk metal enthusiasts will want to check out. The intro with the acoustic in a style reminiscent of the “oud” is something different on this album, and the tunes remind me a lot of some older singers in Lebanon, which is something I personally enjoyed, because it was incorporated nicely with their western metal influences. Bassem once again just does outstandingly well with his singing. The chorus also has some Arabic – “Lebanon, land of love and peace”, and so does the outro. The outro goes into a completely different time signature, a lot like a traditional Lebanese song, and you can hear some “tablas” and tamborines towards the end. It’s definitely a catchy song, and is a more genuine “Middle Eastern influenced” attempt by a regional band.

Songs like Last Stand, Battle Roar, Rip It Off all are enjoyable as well. They sound like reformed thrash songs from their glory days. What I think allows this band to prevail over the tens of bands from the Middle East that play thrash or heavy metal is influence that comes directly from Lebanon. I think when bands claim they’re influenced by Middle Eastern music, they don’t look past the harmonic-minor scale, and that is a BIG mistake. Another factor is Bassem’s vocals. The diversity, from his dynamic range to his falsettos and growls, gives a unique edge to the metal. The tunes he uses combine stuff you may here from Metallica and Megadeth to stuff that can come out of Arabic music in the Levante region of the Middle East.

Overall, it’s a solid album. The 15-year wait was definitely worth it. While many think that too many bands in the region who play thrash/heavy metal are not innovative and not very genuine, Blaakyum are a different case. The veteran band released a solid and enjoyable album. Bassem took his time and went through many lineup changes before finally having Lord of the Night sorted out and arranged carefully.

It is really astounding that some of these tracks are over 10 years old and still made it in without major changes and still sound fresh. That being said, some of the tracks definitely stand out while others fit in well but don’t blow me away as much. Rany and Jad make a very solid rhythmic unit, but give way to their own creativity more than occasionally throughout the album. Elias’s solos are not as technical as on his work with
The Weeping Willow, which in my opinion is a good thing. The well phrased melodies and “feel” in his solos on this album show a different side to him, and I personally enjoyed that as well. His solo on Awakened Dreams is my favorite at the moment. Bassem’s vocals really stole the show for me on this album, and play a huge role in why I enjoy this album. Last but not least, Wissam’s orchestral work was fantastic and did not drown out any of the songs, but made them a little bit more interesting.

Recommended tracks:
Lord of the Night
My Land
Awakened Dreams
Am I Black

I give this album a 7.5/10

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