For those of you that don’t know, Iraqi heavy metal band Acrassicauda, have endured many hardships throughout their career. From being bombed out of their practice space, to having to flee to other countries for political asylum, it seemed for a while that Acrassicauda was doomed from the get-go. After almost ten years since they first got together, they dropped their first EP, Only the Dead See the End of the War (2010). More recently, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their first full length. With over 600 backers and $33,000 later, the greatness that is Gilgamesh was the final product.
As soon as I clicked the first track, I knew the album would just be epic. It is about the Epic of Gilgamesh, after all.
Nothing delights me more than the very evident Middle Eastern influence to their sound. The opening track, “Cedar Forest” is filled with beautifully layered and enchanting clean guitars. It gives an ominous vibe that acts as a perfect calm before the storm.
The 2nd track, “Rise”, their first single off this record, is just as heavy as it is infectiously catchy. The guys waste no time in punching you in the face with a dose of melodic thrash, accompanied by pounding tom accents. The vocals follow with authority, conveying strong words about worlds colliding and the destruction of mankind.
Track 3, “Quest for Eternity” is another fine example of awesome heavy metal musicianship, conveyed through that Middle Eastern sounding style. It starts off with a crushing main riff, but ironically paves the way for the first time we get to hear clean vocals on the album, as the chorus sounds off: “Yes, here I am, a free-born slave.” If you’re at all familiar with their song “Garden of Stones” from Only the Dead See the End of the War, then you know Acrassicauda is just as strong in the clean vocal department as they are with their screams. Each member of the band gets vocals in at one point or another on Gilgamesh, and drummer Marwan Hussein Riyadh is actually the band’s lyricist as well.
The next song, “Amongst Kings and Men” touches directly on the subject matter behind the Epic of Gilgamesh, via New York City hardcore style mob chants and more punchy riffs. Some of the song is choppy, while the rest is primarily melodic Middle Eastern sounding thrash. It’s also a very diverse song, vocally. This track seems to have a wider scream range and another clean catchy chorus. “I am your Gilgamesh. Bow before me and you’ll be redeemed.”
Acrassicauda is also a band that likes to let their cultural roots shine through their music. The next track, “Shamhat” is a short instrumental comprised of an array of new percussion elements, reminiscent of their homeland. The drum rolls and paradiddles bleed into the next track, “The Cost of Everything and the Value of Nothing”, perfectly. It’s another extremely diverse song. You can hear a lot of their original Western influences in this song. Many of the grooves and talking parts are reminiscent of older Slipknot material, while the faster sections have a lot of Slayer in them.
And what heart-felt metal/rock album would be complete without a ballad? The song, “Requiem for a Reverie” is a perfect blend of great musicianship and uncanny vocal ability. Superb acoustic progressions take flight with subtle but intricate electric leads, while the album’s clean vocals take on a new shape. The great vocal melodies and lyrics on this track convey the most sincere emotion on the record and provide a great introduction for the latter portion of Gilgamesh.
“House of Dust” starts off with more “desert-sounding” percussion and the heaviest riffs on the album. This track is straight mosh pit material. It grabs you by the throat and tosses you out a 2nd story window. There’s also lots of impressive lead guitar work in between the key scream vocal sections on this track.
As for the following track, “Unity”, the opening riff provides a deceivingly nu thrash vibe, making the impending punch in the face even more abrupt and powerful. This is a very driving track with more shades of New York City hardcore. “Let’s break these walls! United we stand!”, screams lead vocalist, Faisal Talal, over syncopated double bass accents and heavy chugging guitars.
Next up, “Elements” kicks off with the fastest, most old school thrash sounding intro on the album. It’s also another extremely eclectic vocal song. From traditional thrash screams, to hardcore sounding yelling/talking sections, to the eerie hypnotic sounds of an Arabic choir emanating from the distance, this track has it all. And for you lead guitar fans, this is another one with a solo that just plain rips.
If you’re a metal fan and you’re not sold on this album yet, you might want to schedule a CAT scan with your local neurologist, but I do have two more songs to talk about.
“Uruk” chimes in next. It’s another instrumental with that same familiar desert vibe, but it also conveys a completely different feeling in its wake. There’s a subtle piano lead on this track that doesn’t completely change the Arabic undertones, but certainly makes things unique and quite relaxing. It’s the perfect setup for the closing track.
“Rebirth” closes this record. It’s a slower, punishing anthem that makes me think of being slowly stomped deeper and deeper into my own grave. There are more clean vocals on this track, but the screams in the heavier riffs get the main point of the track across to the listener. The cleans are catchy and well thought out as usual, but you almost get the sense that’s not the point of the song. “The war is not over! The worst is yet to come!”, is the point of this brutal closer. It fades out with a brilliant piano outro, accompanied by dissonant guitars and a weeping child; no doubt conveying the harsh realities many children face, born into a world of unconscionable conflicts and unspeakable losses.
Acrassicauda is a force to be reckoned with in the metal scene. They faced many obstacles and fought hard for 14 years to get this full length out. Now, it’s ready for your ears and there’s no time like the present to indulge in their great accomplishment. Certainly, if you can’t cough up the cash for a CD, their music can be found on the internet. If you decide you like what you hear from that, Acrassicauda will be in Buffalo, NY on September 19, 2015 at Broadway Joe’s- their first ever appearance in WNY. Surely, it’ll be a show you’d have to be crazy to miss out on. That CAT scan might not be a bad idea, eh?
Thank you for reading this review! As always, your feedback is greatly encouraged!
Co-written by Mike Marlinski and Vick Sacha