I am, when it comes down to it, a sucker for Middle Eastern influences in my metal. I love the style and flavor of northern Europe, but the relative scarcity of good metal from the Middle East makes such music something of a special treat. With that in mind, I really enjoyed the instrumental side of this album. Mellower passages, regional folk melodies, and regional folk instrumentation all blend in with an almost perfect balance against the harsher black metal elements. There are times when it feels like some of the performances could be a bit tighter, but by and large it all sounds very good. If I were grading this album purely on the style and quality of the instrumental performances, I'd probably give it an A- or so.
. . . but . . .
The single, overwhelming issue I have with this record is the vocals. For one thing, the actual recording quality of the vocals is often strangely out of place, as at times it feels like the band recorded finished songs in a studio and then tacked on demo vocals. It's not the poor recording quality that's the problem, it's the fact that the recording quality is inconsistent (sometimes the vocals sound fine) and largely mismatched with the rest of the music. Even beyond that issue, I think I'd have a tough time digesting the vocal performance anyway. The weird, quavering, effects-driven bellows come across as being kind of love-them-or-hate-them, and while further digesting time may change this, I'm presently in the "hate them" camp.
Some of you may really, truly love this. I'd strongly suggest you check it out for yourself and see. Personally, I really wanted to give this a higher score, but I just can't.