Mohammad ‘Aelian’ Hallaji is a veteran of Iran’s underground metal scene with many years of experience as a multi-instrumentalist. The debut Amongst the Ashes EP from 2020 garnered a modicum of interest outside his native Tehran, including Finland, where he now lives and works with the Tampere death metal quartet, Erase this Earth, as his backing band. Hallaji’s aim to find a world class production team for his latest musical release owes much to the work of Aleksanteri Kuosa at Inka Studios in Orimattila, and the mastering of Juho Räihä at Sound Spiral Audio in the Finnish city of Kouvola. It may only be three songs in length, but this effort has the audio engineering of an epic Amorphis album.
Hallaji’s vision for extreme metal is one where the traditional melodies of ancient Persia can co-exist with thrash and melodic death metal. To this end, he utilises the setar (Iranian lute) as the main instrument on atmospheric opener, ‘Säraghaz’, but he also adds a dash of enchanting keyboard choirs underneath the string-plucking and sun-blinding heat of his instrumentation. It’s only fifty-eight seconds in length, but it sets the scene for the Middle Eastern thrash of ‘Fallen from Grace’. Mixing the Phrygian scales with distorted guitars is nothing new in metal, with the likes of Therion, Nile and modern bands like Ignea and Arhat employing the exotic spell of Arabian and Persian music theory in their compositions. Here, Hallaji uses his harmonic minor scales with a good understanding of contrast between the dramatic metallic riffing and the melodies of the fertile crescent. His voice is just as powerful. Think of a Mille Petrozza (Kreator) snarl with more death metal vehemence. No doubt, this will raise the cold temperatures of Finland’s third city when the band take it to a live stage.
Standout track, ‘Exalted Traitors’, recreates the imperious stride of Therion’s 1998 Vovin album, with its proud two-beat drum and guitar interplay building towards an inevitable thrash metal sortie. Yet you can also hear Fear Factory’s iconic syncopation among the head-banging In Flames riffs. Hallaji uses the middle-eight as another opportunity to display his setar skills, but the complexities of structure and the ferocity of the music ensure this is nothing more than a brief passing through the Straits of Hormuz.
The Fabricated Monolith is a metal EP first and foremost, and a homage to ancient Persia’s musical heritage second. Two songs and an intro piece are a bit light for an extended play, but that’s understandable when you consider Hallaji moved continents to create his latest record. Let’s hope the next release builds on the momentum established here and provides us with a longer listening experience.
Release Date: 08/06/2022
Record Label: Inverse Records
Standout track: Exalted Traitors
Suggested Further Listening: Therion – Vovin (1998), Kreator – Gods of Violence (2017), Arhat – Dead Life (2020)