Monday, October 3, 2011

Myrath - Tales Of The Sands (2011)

Music is the universal language of the world. From North America to Europe and beyond, the powers of metal have unified many a people. And with that, Myrath, a progressive power metal band from the African nation of Tunisia, is poised to take the world by storm. Started by guitarist Malek at the tender age of 13, they have evolved from a teenage cover band to a prog force. Their third studio album, "Tales Of The Sands," is a loud reminder that good metal knows no boundaries.

The other-wordly sounds of a female chanting voice launches "Under Siege" into action, furnished by a plethora of Middle Eastern sounds. This is no introductory track, but rather a display of strength. The drums are almost mechanical, delivering a punch on each down beat, with a precision that is simply uncanny. The vocals are sensational, with clean singing that has all of the range and power of some of the prog power greats. Keys and guitars come together in a growing melody, with layer upon layer of vocal harmony tying them all together. The siege may be over, but the attack continues, with the thunder of "Braving The Seas" coming your way. The air raid sirens punctuate a booming intro, paving the way for that soothing, melodic voice. This is an all around winner, from start to finish, carrying all of the emotional weight of a ballad without losing the harder edge. The instrumental work is fantastic, from the groove of the bass line to the lightning fast guitar chord changes, and the daring keyboard solo. No need to drag this one out into a meaningless epic.

The use of ethnic instruments does wonders in "Merciless Times," forming the backbone of the track. This is the new perspective that metal has been longing for. Amidst the flashes of folk brilliance, the band manage to keep it heavy, but not overbearing. Each kick drum finds a home, rather than dominating the overall sound of the track. Orchestrated strings and winding chants occupy the opening moments of the title track, "Tales Of The Sands." Tribal style drumming takes a hold of you and welcomes you to another flowing verse. The guitars finally get to shine, with a shredding solo punctuating a dazzling breakdown portion. The vocal patterns alone will keep you coming back for more, and they are merely one piece of this musical puzzle. A well placed acoustic outro leads you back to quiet.

But the silence doesn't last long, with a string and piano intro tugging at your soul. Even as the guitars and drums blast forward, you are pulled along for the ride. The instruments dart in and out of one another, like the braiding of hair. Drums become intertwined with guitars, keys become tangled in bass, and the vocals surround everything. The depth in the voice of frontman Zaher Zorgati is mind blowing, hitting every note with no effort, all the while pouring out his innermost emotions. Alongside his voice, the guitars have begun to speak for themselves, igniting a fire within each stroke. "Dawn Within" starts with a flurry of drums and guitars, creating a north African stomp unlike any you may have heard before. In the mere three minutes, you are treated to everything you could want from a prog power metal track, from crashing drums to high octane vocals.

The rolling thunder of drums welcomes you to "Wide Shut," before hearing a more delicate side of Zorgati. This is not to say his strength has diminished in any way, but there is a certain soul this time around that peaks through. The beautiful use of strings and keys heightens the experience, especially when paired with the sonic acrobatics of chanting. The bass line is the driving force in this track, setting up every burst of guitar or drums. The breakdown section has some dueling solos that would make the masters of the genre jealous. The music cuts, and there is simply piano and vocals. Moments later the track explodes, and cruises to the end. The ensuing blast, also known as "Requiem For A Goodbye," is not what you would expect by a song bearing that name. This is no sappy ballad, but rather a booming one, allowing each piece to holding the spotlight together. The use of keys and synthesizes creates a grandiose tapestry to build upon. They blend the metal spectacle of a wicked guitar solo with the heartfelt crooning that all emotional tracks must possess. Seamlessly, they come together.

In a flash the album is coming to an end. "Beyond The Stars" sees some of the heavier moments on display, with the drums taking a particularly heavy handed approach., whether it be through a series of rapid double kicks or a brilliant fill. The ever present ethnic influences are subtle at times, but front and center at others. The ability to use, but not overuse, these elements is the key to distinguishing this from other bands. Tracks like this one put those instruments in the perfect proportions. But this is still a guitar driven band, and guitarist Malek gets to flex his musical muscles with another rousing solo. The final track, the aptly titled "Time To Grow," is your reward. from start to finish, you have been treated to an array of tempos and melodies, and this is no different. This is harmony on display, each instrument complimenting the others.

It is hard to compare bands and genres in a logical sense. It is truly like comparing apples to kangaroos. So, rather than trying to concoct an equation that states if you like Band X, then you will love Band Z, it is much easier to appeal to your roots. If you like heavy music, Myrath is a band you need to hear. If you like folk influenced metal, Myrath is a band you need to hear. If you like melodic metal of any kind, Myrath is a band you need to hear. After listening to and being consumed by  "Tales Of The Sands," Myrath was certainly a band that I needed to hear.


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