Credit: Stav Farba
It’s no secret that we at Metal Has No Borders love Arallu. Their music has captivated us for years, and now that enough months have passed since the release of Death Covenant, it’s time for us to put their discography to the ultimate test. And what better way to do so than with a countdown of their albums?
This list is gonna start from their weakest release, and will gradually be updated over the next couple of weeks, with a new album being added for each update until we reach their best.
With that all said and done, be sure to scribble out your sacrificial spells and runes, because we’re about to fall down Arallu’s eight circles of hell!
8. Six (2017)
Released via Transcending Obscurity Records
Best songs: “Adonay,” “Oiled Machine of Hate,” “Philosophers“
One of the things that makes Arallu a great band is that nearly all their albums have something interesting to offer. Sadly, that’s just not the case with Six.
Now, I’m aware that Six helped the band gain more attention after fading into obscurity for a few years, so for that feat, I’m glad it did what it did. But looking at it now, this record lacks a sense of identity compared to Arallu’s previous efforts.
If you look at the first five Arallu albums, each one has its own distinctive features that give it character. For example, Geniewar is a great concept album that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a battlefield, The War on the Wailing Wall is blind rage in its purest form, etc. Six on the other hand, just feels like an Arallu album without a purpose or anything interesting to keep the listener engaged for long.
To be fair, none of the songs on Six are bad by any degree. However, there are barely any standout tracks to speak of, and the few that exist aren’t enough to save the album. The rest are good on their own, but don’t offer anything we haven’t seen Arallu do better before, so most of the album is a bit monotonous.
On top of that, the production is somewhat compressed, and for the uninformed reader, that’s not a good thing.
Admittedly, “Oiled Machine of Hate” is a god-tier track, and “Adonay” is a ton of fun live, but besides that, there’s nothing else in this record that makes you wanna go back to it (unless you’re writing a countdown, in which case, tough luck).
Granted, Arallu still have an overall incredible backlog, but even with the best of the best, you can’t expect them to have a flawless discography.
7. The War on the Wailing Wall (1999)
Released via Raven Metal
Best songs: “Warriors of Hell,” “My Hell,” “Kill the Traitor”
Despite ranking near the bottom of the list, The War on the Wailing Wall is an interesting beast.
Butchered started Arallu out of his love for black metal and hatred for religious extremism, so being Arallu’s debut record, which at the time was a solo effort, he wanted The War on the Wailing Wall to be as angry and chaotic as (in)humanly possible. Although it was unlike anything people have heard before at the time, it definitely shows its age now, especially when compared to Arallu’s later albums.
This is due to three factors: first of all, while The War on the Wailing Wall is definitely extremely angry, it’s also extremely repetitive. Secondly, the Middle Eastern folk influences that Arallu are so well-known for are here, but nowhere near as prominent as their later work. And lastly, the drumming is blatantly programmed. While acknowledging that Butchered didn’t have a drummer at the time and therefore has to use a drum machine, the drum sound is obviously fake.
Don’t get me wrong though, The War on the Wailing Wall definitely has its fair share of good songs, but it’s best to listen to them individually; listening to the whole album from start to finish in one sitting is an ordeal. This thing has no business being over 40 minutes long, or hell, even half an hour long.
That being said, even though The War on the Wailing Wall aged worse than a 10 month-old durian, there’s still a lot of character to be found in it. And considering the fact that it gives a good look into Butchered’s mindset when he started the band, I think anyone who wants to get into Arallu’s music should listen to it at least once (just make sure to take breaks in the process. You’ll thank me later).
6. En Olam (2019)
Released via Satanath Records
Best songs: “Guard of She’ol,” “Achrit Ha’yamim,” “Trial by Slaves”
Back in our review of Death Covenant last year, I lumped En Olam in with Six, calling it a similarly unmemorable record. Listening to it again after all this time, I realize how wrong I was.
Okay, sure. The production is far more polished than you’d want an Arallu album to be and the first three songs don’t offer us anything we haven’t seen the band do much better before, but they’re still fun. However, the further you go down the tracklist, the more interesting the album gets.
“Guard of She’ol” is a ferocious, elaborate song, “Achrit Ha’yamim” is a fantastic instrumental, and “Trial by Slaves” is one of the most blasphemous songs the band have written during the latter half of their career. On top of that, “Vortex of Emotions” is a nice doom metal-influenced track that keeps things fresh in between all the folky blackened thrash we’re used to.
It’s also worth mentioning that the drumming on this album, courtesy of Assaf Assimov, is insane!
En Olam may not be one of Arallu’s best or most aggressive releases, but it’s still much better than I gave it credit for last year. In many ways, it’s comparable to what Behemoth have been doing recently by cleaning up the production and generally making their music (marginally) more accessible, while still holding onto most of their identity.
Despite ranking pretty low on the list, that’s not because I dislike En Olam. Far from it. I just think the next five albums are better.
5. Geniewar (2015)
Best songs: “From the Desert to the Ice”, “Metal Troops 666”, “Giv’at Ha’tachmoshet”
Despite existing for less than a century, the amount of wars Israel fought in is fucking insane. This is a theme present in pretty much every Arallu album, but none more so than on the fantastic Geniewar.
Historically, the thrash subgenre has held much anti-war themes where black metal is known for being critical of religion. Created as a concept album about Israel’s many wars, from the nation’s war of independence, all the way to Tzuk Eitan, Geniewar is naturally the thrashiest album in Arallu’s backlog. There’s already a strong thrash influence in nearly every Arallu record, but to match the genre’s burning hatred for war more-so than religion, Geniewar prioritizes a thrash sound first and a black metal style second.
Even so, Geniewar still has all the elements present in a proper Arallu album, with Middle Eastern folk music galore and a badass collection of songs, to boot.
“Evil’s Finest” is a great opening instrumental, followed by “From the Desert to the Ice,” which is the closest Arallu have ever gotten to prog. Other highlights include “Metal Troops 666,” which has the best riff on the album, one that sounds very Exodus-y, as well as the furious “Underworld Resistance”, based on the infamous Yom Kippur War.
There are also a couple of covers of old Israeli folk songs about war added to the mix, namely “Giv’at Ha’tachmoshet” and “Hayalim Almonim.” Both these covers are amazing in their own right and offer a fascinating chance of pace, while still feeling very fitting for the album.
Honestly, I wanted to place Geniewar higher on the list, but there are sadly two flaws that hold it back to the countdown’s bottom half.
Firstly, the album also features a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave,” which is a sick cover and in a way, fitting for the album’s themes… but there are already two cover songs on here. Was a third really necessary? They could have just had a similar song of their own to replace it.
And more importantly, towards the end, the album’s production changes twice. Throughout most of the album, there’s this very punchy production which fits the overtly thrashy style, but one of the final songs, “Tzuk Eitan,” suddenly changes the production out of nowhere and while it’s still good, it also feels really sudden and out of place. Then the production changes AGAIN on the closing song, “Desert Genii Storm.” Again, it sounds great, but takes away Geniewar’s potential of being a well-rounded record from start to finish.
Geniewar is an otherwise astounding album, so it’s a shame these two flaws hold it back from being downright perfect. Had Arallu kept the production consistent and replaced the “Powerslave” cover with an original song, Geniewar would have easily made it to the top 3.
4. The Demon from the Ancient World (2005)
Released via Epidemie Records
Best songs: “The Devil’s Massacre”, “Sierra Nevada”, “Tzvaot Arallu”
Black metal is known for having very raw production, but with a lot of bands, while their first couple of releases sound the part, they then set their eyes on cleaning it up. At first, Arallu took a similar path with their first two albums. However, once their third release, The Demon from the Ancient World, came out with production far worse than its predecessors, critics hated it.
Arallu made a bold move by taking this route. The Demon from the Ancient World has practically zero mixing, the drum set sounds like twigs hitting rocks, and the whole thing leads you to believe it was recorded in a basement. And ya know what? I fucking dig it.
What makes this choice so interesting to me is that while the production is about as shabby as possible, nearly everything in terms of composition was given so much attention. The Demon from the Ancient World is one of Arallu’s most melodic and intricate releases, and when you pair that with the production, it creates this very fascinating dissonance that you’re just not used to hearing in music very often.
Not only that, but it still maintains everything else you’d want in an Arallu album. The songs are fast and furious, the Middle Eastern folk elements are strong, and lyrically, the album is delightfully blasphemous as always.
There are a few songs with interesting trivia here, too. “Sierra Nevada” was written about Butchered’s struggles to get his brother back from Colombia after he was held hostage by guerilla organizations (yes, really). “Kill Kill Kill” features a guest appearance from Salem’s very own Ze’ev Tananboim. And “The Sumerian Words” has a riff that shares the exact same melody as the Underground theme from Super Mario Land (that last part wasn’t confirmed by the band, but seriously, listen to the two side by side and try to tell me otherwise).
The band remastered most of their early albums, which is all well and good, but at the time of writing this countdown, The Demon from the Ancient World remains the only early album of theirs that didn’t get the same treatment. And considering how much its rawness adds to its identity, I hope that remains to be the case.
3. Death Covenant (2022)
Released via Hammerheart Records
Best songs: “Under Jerusalem’s Temple Mount,” “Satanic Spirit,” “Mystical Sultan”
I know we already reviewed Death Covenant last year, but fuck it; this album is so damn good, it needs its praises sung a second time. Plus, now that enough time has passed, I’ve learned to appreciate certain things in it that I dismissed before.
A departure from their previously thrashy style, Death Covenant still manages to be a raging cacophony that delivers everything needed in a proper Arallu album and then some. It’s their most extreme release in over a decade, and marked the beginning of what will hopefully become a new golden era for the band.
The decision to be influenced by bands like Dark Funeral and Mayhem more than Desaster and Sathanas also contributes to Death Covenant having the darkest sound of any Arallu release. This album revels in its dark atmosphere, so much so that there’s even a straight-up ambient black metal song to serve as an interlude, that being “Mystical Sultan.”
Not to mention, it’s the first Arallu album to feature guitar riffs which are based on pre-recorded saz riffs. That’s a very innovative approach towards writing folk metal, and I have to say, Eylon Bart absolutely kills it on the saz here.
The album also features guest appearances from Thokkian Vortex’s Lord Kaiaphas and Varathron’s Necroabyssious. These guys both compliment Buthcered’s voice wonderfully in the songs they appear in, “Ruler of the Seven Worlds” and “Humanity Death Embrace.”
The only complaint I had with this album when it came out was the overuse of vocal layering, which seemed very excessive and even a tad forced. While it still doesn’t do much for me, I’ve come to recognize the vocal layering here as one of Arallu’s methods of making Death Covenant as chaotic as they possibly could. Could they have chosen a better one? Sure. But it still manages to be a contributing factor to Death Covenant’s aggression, especially after En Olam somewhat toned down the extremity.
Apart from that one nitpick, I find everything else here so enjoyable, and combined with the innovative freshness of this album, Death Covenant had to make it to the top 3.
2. Satanic War in Jerusalem (2002)
Released via Raven Metal
Best songs: “Jewish Devil,” “Religions are Dead,” “War of the Genii”
Any readers who happen to also be well-versed in Arallu’s music are probably scratching their heads now. Not because I obviously have so many great things to say about Satanic War in Jerusalem, I think that’s a sentiment many of us are willing to share. Rather, why are The War on the Wailing Wall and Satanic War in Jerusalem so far apart from each other on the list when these two albums are so similar?
Well, it all boils down to whether or not they stood the test of time. The War on the Wailing Wall clearly hasn’t, but Satanic War in Jerusalem is a special case. Ya see, this album is somehow just as, if not, MORE extreme than its predecessor, while still being an engaging listen all the way through.
The War on the Wailing Wall takes you back to a time when Butchered was angry at religion and wanted to start a black metal band about it. Satanic War in Jerusalem on the other hand, takes you back to the midst of the Second Intifada, with all its carnage and bloodshed converted into musical form.
In addition, the Middle Eastern folk music themes were somewhat present in the debut, but Satanic War in Jerusalem doubled down on them while still holding onto the extremity. Furthermore, Butchered actually got a real drummer for this album, so no more of that manufactured-sounding drum programming from the first record. These factors put together really set the standard for all of Arallu’s best albums from that point on.
Lyrically, Satanic War in Jerusalem is arguably Arallu’s most blasphemous release. The blasphemies are scattered throughout every corner of this album and I don’t want to spoil any of them, so all I’ll say is that if The War on the Wailing Wall got extremists and theocrats angry, Satanic War in Jerusalem must have made them burst some arteries out of spite.
The selection of songs is incredible, as well. “War of the Genii” features one of the most sinister riffs you’ll ever hear in your life, “Arallu’s Rage” has an oddly fitting rock ‘n’ roll vibe mixed into the band’s folky blackened thrash style, “Jerusalem Gates” has a nice darbuka (goblet drum) break in between all the madness, and the cover of Slayer’s “Evil Has No Boundaries” goes hard, too.
One more thing I have to say about the tracklist is that the album closer, “Mesopotamian Story,” isn’t really much of a song, yet still serves as the perfect epilogue for this hellscape of a record. Much like the lyrics, I won’t spoil it for ya, but trust me, it’s a bold move, and one that definitely payed off, especially if you’re listening to the full album in one sitting.
Satanic War in Jerusalem is a flawless album from start to finish. It was where Arallu truly acquired their identity, and despite sharing many similarities with their outdated debut, it hasn’t aged even a bit. Above all else, though, it’s crazy to think that an album this good isn’t #1… but weight for weight, there is one Arallu album that triumphs over even Satanic War in Jerusalem.
1. Desert Battles (2009)
Released via Raven Metal
Best songs: “Possessor of the Code,” “Desert Battles,” “The Keeper of Jerusalem”
From the nanosecond the idea for this countdown was conceived, the placement for #1 was and still is a no-brainer. No other Arallu album is more complete, progressive, and impeccable than the beyond-perfect Desert Battles.
Desert Battles leaves nearly every other Arallu album in the dust in so many ways, with one of the main ones being style. When it comes to Middle Eastern folk influences in Arallu’s music, in terms of both melody and instrumentation, they’ve never been featured more prominently than on Desert Battles. However, the album still manages to sound incredibly brutal, almost as much as Satanic War in Jerusalem!
Admittedly, the mix on the original pressing of Desert Battles sounds kinda dry and lifeless (in a bad way), but in 2018, it got an essential remaster. This new version’s production sounds much more extreme and punchy, while still retaining all the rawness of the original, and to me, is the true version of the album. Once that’s combined with the more progressive, yet intense musical direction, Desert Battles arguably has the most badass sounding mix of any Arallu record.
It’s also worth mentioning that Desert Battles came out a few years after the Second Intifada ended, but religious warfare between Israel, other nations, and itself didn’t go away. Throughout Desert Battles, you can really hear Butchered’s frustration with this scenario, which adds to the feeling of each song sounding like it’s erupting out of a portal to Hell.
As far as the tracklist is concerned, it was so hard to choose the three best songs on this album, because practically every track on Desert Battles is a standout song. Every riff, every drum beat, every lyric is captivating, no matter how many times you revisit this record, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat ’til the end.
“Al Macbara” is the perfect opener; a short, yet grandiose folky instrumental that merely gives you a taste of the insanity present throughout the rest of the album. From that point on, each song takes you on a journey of its own, yet everything feels cohesive enough to be part of the same record.
The next track, “Old Form of Evil,” is absolute insanity, and easily one of the most intense songs the band ever recorded. “Possessor of the Code” is an extraordinarily well-composed ode to the Necronomicon’s author. The title track is the crux of the album, combining everything great about the album all in one song, but everything after it still manages to keep you engaged.
“The Demon’s Curse” makes you feel like you’re in a warzone, but with a slow interlude in the middle to keep things interesting. It also has one of the funniest lines of any Arallu song, but you’ll have to listen to it to find out what it is, because no way am I gonna spoil a moment like that.
“The Union of Babylon” is like a hybrid of Arallu’s classic folky style and early Sepultura, which go together incredibly well. From a lyrical perspective, “The Keeper of Jerusalem” is the most interesting song by the band, because as morbid as it is, it’s also strangely optimistic. On top of that, it’s also got the best folk riff in Arallu’s whole backlog.
Moving onto “Millchama,” which is the album’s penultimate track, and a storm before the calm, starting off incredibly brutal, but getting increasingly proggy and melodic as the song continues.
The record ends with “The Doom Beating”, which is basically just folk instruments doing whatever. It’s almost as if the demons have won the war against religion and are celebrating.
Considering how great Death Covenant is, Arallu are going in a very strong direction. However, it’s difficult to imagine them ever topping Desert Battles. I think every metalhead should give this record a listen, because it’s not even up for debate; Desert Battles is straight-up one of the best metal albums ever made!
Be sure to check out this amazing band’s socials below, and for all intents and purposes, stay metal, my friends!