Salqiu - خ​م​ا​س​ي​ن ا​ل​و​ب​ا​ء (Self-released)

Salqiu is one of those artists that shouldn't need an introduction, but does. A blackened death-metal / deathened black-metal savant, mastermind Nuno Lourenço takes a ridiculously prolific and authentically DIY approach to music making, which has yielded nearly twenty releases since he started putting music on Bandcamp in 2016, including three full-lengths in the past six months. The certified banger Pariah garnered attention in weirdo metal world, for its use of far-flung instrumentation, and for the way its deliberate compositions led a kooky-yet-stately tour through a pseudo-Alexandrian world—or "Greek Suite.” From what little I've heard of Salqiu's older work, there seem to be the expected highs and lows. But a deeper dive is in order: I'm intrigued by the inner workings of this esoteric, ad hoc ethos, perhaps comparable only to out-there names like Esoctrilihum and Benthik Zone.
As I figure it now, listening to ماسين الوباء ("Pentagon Epidemic," I think?), Nuno's tenets are simple: (1) Play with lots of textures and melodic modes known and unknown; (2) forefront the guitar and devilishly playful finger picking; and, most important of all, (3) let the details work themselves out in the catharsis of making sound with almost neurological celerity. For reference, it is worth citing Nuno's lovely disclaimer to Pariah in full:

Sorry, no mix. But that's how it has ever been. [sic]

Should I, Voidhanger or even Season of Mist want to release this in purple splattered double vinyl, I'll gladly provide the stems for a proper mix (sarcasm intended).

Both hilariously on point and delightfully self-aware about his appeal to deviant metalheads, the admission of carelessness in mixing must be so frustrating to the less talented try-hards out there, who pass hours turning little knobs on computer screens, to have their music come out just as jagged, prickly, and uneven. But sometimes it’s really about the songwriting, and even the best producers win and lose battles in the quest for the 'right sound,’ on little more than the quality of the underlying material (and recording).
Thankfully, on خماسين الوباء, the magic-carpet ride through Nuno's Dalian DuneScape™ accommodates the sometimes superficial-sounding mix. Even where the record is just vibing out, like on "صحارى ميراج (Sahara Mirage)," the music moves to the buzzy freneticism of its nifty drum loops, with the woodwinds and the synthetic strings evoking brilliant starlight in the clearest desert sky. Don't get too comfortable, though, because on the following track (and 18-minute centerpiece), "مرثية (An Elegy)," wraithy black-metal riffs tear open a galactic time warp to a darker and less welcoming place, where any memories of a whimsical nighttime oasis are recast in the gloomy grotesque of a funhouse mirror. If that sounds like a terrifyingly satisfying trip, you may be right. On the record's Bandcamp page, Nuno writes a bit too defiantly, "'Cultural appropriation'? Absolutely not. Just an interpretation of some wild dreams over overwhelming life experiences." It's an unfortunate, 'the lady doth protest too much' moment, anticipating accusations that I'm not sure would have materialized, given Salqu's past journeys into other pseudo-historical dreamworlds. Notwithstanding the status of خماسين الوباء's Orientalism, though, the sign-off does offer the snapshot of a musician's effort to render and reclaim certain experiences (and subconscious reflections thereof), which have challenged his understanding. It makes for some totally far-out black metal, which I hope Salqiu carries into the next project, which will likely dip into different mythologies from a different geographical region anyway.