Scarab - _Blinding the Masses_
(Independent, 2009)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (6 out of 10)
As Egyptians, we are internationally known for our monumental pyramids and age old civilization; but today I bring you a new cultural export, a musical export that differs from all other music (popular and unpopular) in Egypt. It's a death metal band by the name Scarab. The band has been going on since 2001 under the name Hatesuffocation, but changed it to Scarab in 2006.

In local terms, it is very defiant of Scarab to write, record and release a death metal album in Egypt -- and one could turn this into an ad nauseam essay about how the Egyptian society perceives foreign sounding music, let alone death metal, but that would hardly make this article a review of their full-length debut _Blinding the Masses_.

Musically, Scarab draw influence from different legions of death metal bands like Morbid Angel, Behemoth, Cannibal Corpse, Nile and many others, but it is their incorporation of ancient Egyptian concepts and art that gives them an inimitable aesthetic when comparing them to European death metal bands.

The album starts with the brooding intro "Into the Dunes", which makes way for the track that was the title of their previous EP _Valley of the Sandwalkers_; a track on which the raw energy of Scarab's sound is most evident. The ancient Egyptian symbol Ankh, which is believed to be the key of life, is the title of track number three, a pummeling beat-down of swift and lethal riff transitions. However, my personal favorite piece on this effort has to be the crushing "Leaders of Agony". It's a track that would oblige many European metal fans to acknowledge Scarab's potential and skill. The band's socially conscious message regarding the ills of the contemporary Egyptian society is spread all over the album, but not as bold as on "Devourer of the Unjustified" and its liner notes inside the CD case.

In the interest of fairness, the production quality of _Blinding the Masses_ is pretty good for a self-financed album, but better quality is to be expected in the future, because such a heavy brand of metal needs extra attention during its mixing and mastering to put out a record with clearer odds and ends. Also the album's level of coherence doesn't give off the vibe that makes it an essentially one-shot listen; the tracks can be individually nibbled on without needing the ambiance of a complete album.

The quintet is preparing for a second album, and I am certain that it will be an improvement over _Blinding the Masses_. Of course every band claims that every new album is their 'strongest' and 'most varied' work to date, but that's because you're never going to hear a band saying 'our new album is not that good'; but in Scarab's case, the new material will be a step forward. They have been improving for a long time and one can easily see them doing that in the future.


(article published 14/2/2010)

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