Ahl Sina - Troops of Pain
Self released
Extreme Middle Eastern Metal
9 songs (65'41")
Release year: 2019
Reviewed by Alex

Proclaiming to play MidEastern extreme heavy metal and coming from Egypt (or rather to originate there, but now to draw from three continents and be very much a long distance band) Ahl Sina are exactly as advertised and what you would expect … yet not always. It is true that the majority of work on this long 65 min+ long album attempted by this 6 person crew has very obvious Middle Eastern influences, with native instrumentation and expected melodic references. Ahl Sina is also into enveloping, symphonic multilayered sound, although production is not very polished and there is no orchestral background that I can detect. The band is trying to craft their sound using just standard metal band instruments plus all those ethnic devices I cannot fully name. As a result Troops of Painis not an album you can call flawless, but it is definitely an honest heartfelt effort.

Ahl Sina like to crash their tender violin or prancing flute into stately structures, syncopated prog riffs and otherwise heavy symphonic goodness. You certainly won’t be disappointed by the lack of weightiness on Troops of Pain, as Vowed, Miracle to Demise and No Boundaries – The Fall of Utopia provide their fair share. Guitar tone is also at the forefront and can be pretty shrill, further adding to the abrasiveness. At the same time melodies are ever present, drifting throughout (No Boundaries – The Fall of Utopia), taking over in the way of violin leads (Miracle to Demise), and sometimes being so very sad (The Gift). The whole music ebbs and flows mostly with a good variety, so you do not notice song structures taking long, while they do exceed 7-8 min threshold often. Ethnic percussion (No Boundaries – The Fall of Utopia) or caravan in the desert/MidEastern bazaar soundtrack (3) remind where Ahl Sina is from, and piling the ethnic layers on does not in and of itself detract.

Whether Ahl Sina will be fully accepted by some listeners, or not, will depend on how much you like Arabian flute and your attitude towards extreme vocals which can at times be strange. Flute frolicking can sometimes take on the life of its own and last for significant amount of time. Vocals of Ahl Sina are a bigger issue though. Whatever stories XYZ tells, it apparently needs several very distinct voices to do it. There is a clean male voice buried in the mix somewhat. There is the gruff semi-melodic death, but not too harsh of a growl. And there are absolutely cartoonish evil troll hysteric lamentations which may turn some of. In that sense, Ahl Sina reminded me of Russian (Kaliningrad/Baltic Sea area) Tvangeste, only less orchestral.

The hinge of questionable vocal choices and periodic overuse of native instrumentation notwithstanding, Ahl Sina was an interesting listen. Provided they tighten up their songwriting a bit, the band can be a great supporting/opening act for Orphaned Land. Both come from the same region, share the same roots and have similar values in their metal music (especially if you think of Mabool day Orphaned Land).

Killing Songs :
The Gift
Alex quoted 79 / 100
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