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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Review: Saratan – Nabatea

Date: June 25th, 2021

Label: Independent

Polish band Saratan (Arabic: cancer) isn’t named by coincidence. Band′s leader, Jarosław Jarek Niemiec studies were oriented to Persian language. At some point his interest in Persian language, history and religion grew and influenced the change of the overall sound of the band.

In early days, Saratan was influenced by thrash metal bands such as Testament, Annihilator, Nevermore, Metallica. Over the years, they were searching for their own style and found it. Saratan is now Oriental metal band. Through the 18 years long career, in early days, Saratan was, as mentioned, a thrash metal band, while over the years they came to the point when they are using less metal and more Oriental influences. If I remember well, the transition album was “Martya Xwar” (Massacre Records, 2012).

Not only the music, obviously the lyrics went in the same direction. Persian history, culture and religions have replaced anti-war and anti-religion inspired lyrics. Persian instruments: tar, setar, bağlama, shurangiz, santur, darbuka, riq, and daf are well incorporated with let’s say classical metal instruments. Also, the band does not use only English but also Persian and Turkish language to express their ideas.

When the band transferred from the realm of thrash metal to what they are playing now, I have to admit, I was a bit afraid I would be disappointed. But that never happened. First of all, they are original. I would say Saratan is an underrated band for sure and not that well known to a wide audience. And I hope that will change.

“Nabatea” is an album full of contrasts. Clash of death/thrash metal with Oriental elements. Chaos and fury from one side, and peace and calmness to the other. This album is inspired by a trip to Jordan before the Corona madness. The whole adventure inspired Jarek to lead us through the ancient kingdom of Arabia, Nabatea.

Journey through the Nabatean Kingdom starts with the instrumental “Bab al-Siq”. The first single, injects a perfect dose of metal in combination with oriental sound. What I have to notice is that Małgorzata “Maggie” Gwóźdź has improved her vocal skills over the years and her role in the band became more significant. Am I allowed to compare Maggie’s vocal delivery in “The One from Shara” with Ofra Haza? 

“Valley of the Moon” again delivers diversity. You will hear razor sharp guitars and growl vocals from the one side, and melodic and clear female vocals on the other.

“The Dusk of Raqmu” (Raqmu-Petra) starts with a beautiful oriental melody. Here Maggie crosses her vocal capabilities with Mir Shamal Hama-faraj (Dark Phantom, Torture Hymns, Cyaxares). Maggie bought me with her interpretation, especially in verses:

“Hear me now,
the collapse of Raqmu,
the earth will shake,
we’ll loose our homes,
death to us all,
nothing remains,
the decimation on the final day,
death, no one survives,
only ruins, only ruins left.”

“The Lament to al-Qau” is a beautiful ballad, not for those with labile emotions. I personally think that this is the song where intensity of emotions culminates. 

“Qasr al-Farid” (meaning “the lonely castle”) continues at the same pace, short instrumental, kind of intermezzo or better to say transition from soft Oriental to the heaviest metal realm.

“The City of Tombs” brings back aggressive growl vocals, besides “Valley of the Moon” maybe the “most metal” song on this album.

And in the end, epic “Mysteries of the Ancient Paths”, the song that I see not as the one that closes the album, but the one that opened the next chapter in Saratan’s beautiful Middle East journey. This is essentially instrumental imbued with Maggie’s vocal, which has no leading role but is only there to complete the atmosphere.

For all those who seek for metal, aggressive sound, I would say “Valley of the Moon” and “The Fall of Raqmu” are the perfect choice.

I will not try to convince you to choose Saratan. Just be open minded and let “Nabatea” flow. Saratan chose their path, they defined their music, it is up to you would you follow them on their mystical journey.