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(52:03, Brennus Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. Intro 2:06 2. Hope 6:37 3. Seven Sins 8:53 4. All My Fears 4:25 5. Confession 11:23 6. Last Breath 4:46 7. Fade Away 5:14 8. My Inner War 8:35 LINEUP: Elyes Bouchoucha – keyboards; vocals Malek Ben Arbia – guitars Saif Ouhibi – drums Anis Jouini – bass
Prolusion. With the release of “Hope”, the debut album by Tunisian quartet MYRATH, Africa finally joins all the other habitable continents of Earth on the planet’s prog metal map. The CD was recorded, mixed and produced by Kevin Godfert from Adagio, who was just staggered by Myrath’s powerful performance at the 3rd edition of the Mediterranean Rock festival in March 2006, when the band opened for his outfit and Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin and solo fame).
Analysis. Overall, this recording is a highly energetic eight-track set of Prog-Metal-on-fire, having all the hallmarks of the genre at its most advanced, which is synonymous to “its best” in my comprehension. One of the most significant aspects of “Hope” is that, while seeming to be not far from so-called classic contemporary Prog-Metal, this is in fact a highly original album which largely avoids direct influences of any of the style’s trendsetters. Instead, it involves quite a few different ‘metal directions’, blending those between themselves and fusing the result with elements of Symphonic Progressive, Baroque classical and oriental music. The first four compositions with a full-band sound (tracks 2 to 5, covering almost two thirds of the recording) perfectly suit this idiom, all sending shivers down my spine when I listen to them, though what first of all comes to mind during that process is exactly the idea of a complex poly-stylistic conglomerate. I will get back, below, to these compositions, as a couple of tracks fall almost completely outside the disc’s prevalent style, and so should be described first. The recording’s very beginning sounds particularly odd, radically different from everything that follows it. The first notes of the disc opener, the aptly-named Intro, are shaped on a traditional Gaelic tune, which is performed by an anonymous bagpipe player, while otherwise this piece depicts the band succeeding in bringing together their native, Arabic, melodies and European ones, using congas, bass, synthesizer, string ensemble and – in places – Zurnai as well as male vocalizations. (Zurnai is a wind instrument widespread in North African, East- and Central Asian territories.) Last Breath is a slow-paced song filled with lush string arrangements and containing a lot of acoustic guitar passages that are skillfully interwoven with its basic fabrics. The only vocals-laden track here, it is nevertheless free of any sugariness or surface glamour either, being generally complicated enough to please anybody who, as I do, hardly tolerates standard rock ballads. After I played the disc for the second time I came to the conclusion that the four first-named tracks (their positions in the track list, to be precise) – the title number, All My Fears, Seven Sins and Confession – are the deepest as well as most compelling creations of heavy progressive music I’ve heard this year. A youthful energy that’s too engaged in paving its way through intricate instrumental trainings to believe the band knows on which side their bread is buttered (e.g. has a commercial success as their aim) marks all these compositions, of which the latter two, the longest tracks here, are especially rich in exotic oriental colorations, both featuring few vocal-laden moves. Comparable in musical complexity, intensity, saturation and beauty all alike to albums like Dream Theater’s Awake”, Iced Earth’s “Burnt Offerings” and “Sophisticated” by Sieges Even, the music is filled with labyrinthine, completely unpredictable, arrangements which, however, can at the same time bear an epically-orchestral quasi classical character – the approach that the self-titled Rising Force debut stands out for, and which can in places be also met in Savatage’s mid-and-late-‘90s rock operas, such as “The Wake of Magellan”. As regards transitions, or rather their wealth here, it would be appropriate to say that the band changes direction on you. Though for the most part both heavy and speedy, the music runs through a wide variety of themes and paces, and can amazingly be at once aggressive and gentle, thanks to the wide as well as inventive use of string arrangements. Keyboardist Elyes Bouchoucha (who’s also a gifted chameleon-singer) and guitar player Malek Ben Arbia both work miracles when soloing, creating lines that could be a cross between Ron Jarzombek (Watchtower), John Petrucci and Yngwie Malmsteen and Jordan Rudess, Robert John Godfrey (The Enid) and Rick Wakeman, respectively. Drummer Saif Ouhibi combines monumentally-monolithic powerful beats with pounding ones which are akin to Oliver Holzwarth or even Mike Portnoy’s in intricacy, while bassist Anis Jouini is, well, technically in every respect on a par with his partners. The remaining two songs, My Inner War and Fade Away, respectively, the last the heaviest track here (a kind of pure techno-metal ecstasy) and the one that is richer in purely symphonic harmonies than any of the previously examined four, though anyhow both have a good deal in common with those.
Conclusion. The grandeur of this release is that the consistency of quality remains very high over all its eight tracks, the majority of which seem to be the embodiments of a trinity of originality, complexity and magic. I believe most, if not all, of those into heavy Progressive, fans of Dream Theater included, will be in the seventh heaven when navigating through the pitfalls and undercurrents that highlight this wonderful recording. Top-20-2007
VM: July 22, 2008
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