Originally released in 2009 Desert Battles became another piece in Arallu’s long history of well received albums (they’ve been going for over 20 years!). However the band was never satisfied with the sound of Desert Battles and now, nine years later, they re-release Desert Battles with new cover art, vocals recording and mix. Of course I had to have a listen to the old version before jumping into this as I hadn’t heard the original album before but had heard both Geniewar and Six from 2015 and 2017 respectively. Both solid releases and it became clear both were a lot stronger outputs than Desert Battles was in 2009 when comparing them.
Desert Battles 2018 version is however a cleaner journey set to the mixing and the vocals. Personally I enjoy this more as the old version was a bit too rough compared to how I’d heard the other material from Arallu. This definitely suits their newer sound a lot more. For those unfamiliar with Arallu their style of metal is black metal with elements of death, middle eastern music and thrash. Making it easy to draw parallels to bands such as Orphaned Land, Al-Namrood and Melechesh, even Nile at some places. From what I understand on reading the bands history Desert Battles is the album that put them on the map and where they took their sound to the level they have today. It’s always nice to hear how a bands sound has evolved during their career and while some remasters can sometime destroy what was once good with the album I think this only improved it.
I don’t think Desert Battles at its very core is as good as neither Geniewar nor Six but this is the way Desert Battles was meant to sound. A really good way to get an introduction to the band with songs like “The Keeper of Jerusalem” being some of the better songs Arallu have written. I do miss the consistency Six had though and a “Possessed by the Sleep” or “Philosophers” standout track to really make it for me. It’s just not as memorable and easily over-looked in the sea of good metal out there. Also I can’t let the fact go that I enjoy the more evil sounding Al-Namrood or Melechesh a lot more when I compare Arallu with other middle eastern influenced bands I know of, they are a lot more towards black metal than Arallu though and who’s to say there can’t be several? They are rather different sounding all of them to be fair. If you haven’t heard Arallu before this could be a good start to hear where they kicked off before going to, in my opinion, their better releases Geniewar and Six.
Label: Raven Music
For fans of: Al-Namrood and Melechesh
Release date: June 6th, 2018
Favorite song: The Keeper of Jerusalem