Dakhma - Blessings of Amurdad (Album Review)

Nov. 23, 2021


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Swiss musician Kerberos has had a busy year, as not only did he release the sophomore album from Lykhaeon but he has also given us the sophomore effort from Dakhma.  Though both these projects have some similarities in terms of the scope of their songwriting and the overall density of their instrumentation, Lykhaeon has explored Greek mythology through a black metal foundation while Dakhma went for Zoroastrian mystique that had more of a death metal framework.  2018’s Hamkar Atonement felt like the culmination of everything Kerberos had been building towards over the past four years, offering a sprawling 70-minute listen that had dense, crushing riffs and ritualistic interludes.  For follow-up Blessings of Amurdad the band has reigned things in a bit, trimming down some of the interludes in favor for a riff focused affair that still offers its share of tense, otherworldly atmosphere.

Despite coming in almost twenty minutes shorter than its predecessor, Blessings of Amurdad still has plenty of smaller details for listeners to discover.  A few of the songs still sprawl outwards towards the eight- or nine-minute mark, but there are just as many that are more direct and bludgeoning.  “The Stench of the Wretched (Forsake Him!)” gives listeners a good idea of what they’re in for, as it opens with chanting and clean guitar that feels like its transported you directly to the sand swept desert on the cover before opening into scorching, weighty riffs.  There remains a murkiness to the tonality and the pummeling of the drums still feels like it can split the ground open, but there’s more clarity to the recording here that makes individual passages stand out even more, and Blessings of Amurdad comes across like a more riff focused album.  In some ways it reminds me of Teitanblood’s transition between the suffocating Death and slightly clearer but no less intimidating The Baneful Choir, as both of Dakhma’s full lengths have followed a similar trajectory.  But it’s the balance of lumbering, muscular riffs and ominous atmosphere that works to this album’s advantage, as the Arabic folk moments that lean on classical guitar and melodies that recall centuries of Persian tradition and the roots of Zoroastrianism that leave a lasting impression.  They’re integrated seamlessly in with the blackened death metal this time around, as the lengthy periods of chanting and ritual ambient have been trimmed down, with “Afrinagan” serving as the only track solely dedicated to these traditional elements.  At times I’m reminded of The Ruins of Beverast circa Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite and even Bølzer’s Aura EP, yet Dakhma remain firmly on their own path.  “Oath of Purity (Amahraspand)” and “The Rite of Dominion (Shehrevar)” may be some of my favorite material from the band to date with how well it twists and turns between dense death metal and haunting atmosphere, but the whole album offers plenty to keep listeners returning.

I’ve noted in my reviews of Hamkar Atonement and Lykhaeon’s Opprobrium that Kerberos’ vocal work has developed considerably since the earlier days of both bands, and that continues to be true throughout Blessings of Amurdad.  The way he seamlessly moves between highs and lows keeps the intensity at a high, and when you combine this with the chanting and other vocal elements it really feels like Dakhma is taking you somewhere unknown and not of this world.  The way that the vocals seem to echo as though they’re coming from the peaks of the sand-laden structure on the album cover adds to the atmosphere and makes the material more entrancing.  Kerberos is starting to become one of those vocalists that you can pick out of the crowd of standard growlers or screamers, and the performance here is no exception. 

Dakhma already impressed with their lengthy ambient and Middle Eastern infused passages, but they’ve taken things to another level with album number two.  This follow-up reigns things in a bit more without losing the power and scale of the songwriting, allowing for a more dynamic listen where individual riffs and melodies stick with you over time.  If you’ve not yet experienced this band’s take on death and blackened death metal, this is a perfect entry point that showcases their ability to achieve something different within the genres and is a clear late year highlight.  Blessings of Amurdad is available from Eisenwald.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg

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