Infernal Scourge
Infernal Folklore

I thought this band was called Infernal Folklore, ‘cause that’s the only readable text on the CD. No help from that logo, either. Had to do a bit of research to find out that it’s actually called Infernal Scourge – how’s that for obscure underground status?

A bit more research revealed that this is the work of one Malek Arthas Hijazi, who started this project in New York and now is based in Bahrain. Don’t know if this counts as Bahraini black metal, though – certainly doesn’t sound exotic. Instead, it sounds a lot like what must be one of Hijazi’s favorite albums, Cradle of Filth‘s classic Dusk… and her Embrace. So we get tons of swoony goth/romantic keyboards, thin, reedy guitars, rasped vocals half-buried in the mix, and (programmed) drums that sound like a light hailstorm on your windshield.

Cradle certainly has its detractors, but I love that album, and hearing this sound again made me a little nostalgic. However, where Cradle crafted a collection of engaging songs, each with its own discernable melodies and hooks, the four enormous tracks on Infernal Folklore can be quite a task to sit through.

A big share of the blame falls on the keyboard sections, which basically take the short piano or synth moments that dot your usual Cradle album (or early Limbonic Art) and expand them to the point where they lose your interest. I also usually enjoy keys in melodic black metal, but these are, for the most part, more silly than stirring. Sometimes they work well, as in some of the more richly orchestrated moments of “She Falls in a Sunset of Luciferian Fire.” I also enjoyed the opening minutes of “The Heretic Queen of Autumn’s Fall from Grace,” which features the kind of sweetly melodic keyboard melodies of late 90s Finnish acts like Throes of Dawn, Thy Serpent or early …And Oceans. Hijazi’s certainly got some composing chops, and a good neoclassical bent, but “less is more” is not one of his strong suits.

Speaking of Limbonic Art, I also have to mention the clean/chanted vocals that crop up throughout the album, which are just comically absurd. They make Morfeus’ yowling on In Abhorrence Dementia sound like Simon Hestnaes. I’d suggest either dropping that element entirely, or hiring a session singer in the future.

I generally try not to come down too hard on self-produced efforts, as it’s just an accomplishment in and of itself to get something out. And it’s clear that Hijazi’s got some things to offer, not least of which is enthusiasm. However, the lack of originality or editing on Infernal Folklore makes it difficult for me to really recommend this, unless you’re feeling nostalgic for the lighter side of symphonic black metal, circa 1996.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
May 7th, 2009

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