Review by Tom Mead
Metal fans have long known that our music has the power to transcend all cultural boundaries; headbangers come in all shapes and sizes, from all corners of the globe. It’s only in the last 10 years or so though, with the advent of social media, YouTube, etc., that we’ve fully been able to sample all of Metal’s international flavours. Many bands from Asia and Africa, who previously might not have had the support of strong local scenes, have been able to make a name for themselves on the international stage, introducing fresh elements to tired and clichéd styles. And few bands have done this as effectively as Tunisia’s Myrath.
Their fourth album, Legacy is their first release for 5 years and is clearly, as a result, an intense labour of love. Essentially a self-titled album (Myrath means “legacy” in Arabic), this is a strong statement of intent, neatly encapsulating their signature sound and serving as a good introductory album for the uninitiated. Myrath call their sound “Oriental Metal” and if I was to sum it up (albeit crudely and simplistically), I’d describe it as various elements of Prog, Folk and Power Metal mixed with the Lawrence of Arabia soundtrack. Replacing European folk melodies and fantasy themes with Arabian phrases and more introspective, philosophical lyrics gives this genre of music a much needed kick up the arse.
Luckily Myrath have the technical and compositional chops to do their interesting style justice. Instrumental opener Jasmin immediately transports you to a marketplace in the first Assassin’s Creed game, with terrific tension built by frantic tribal drumming, strings, chants and whistles. This spills over into second track Believer, which is full of densely layered Arabic melodies, pummelling rhythms and soaring, impassioned tenor vocals courtesy of frontman Zaher Zorgati.
Drummer Morgan Berthet makes his Myrath debut on Legacy and he is not at all shy about making his presence known. His polyrhythmic, eastern-influenced, and somewhat tribal, drumming is perhaps the main musical element that distinguishes Myrath from other Prog/Power Metal bands; it’s a source of subtlety and intrigue in a genre that all too often is obsessed with superfast speed. This is most keenly felt on The Needle and Get Your Freedom Back, which are both full of chugging riffs over rumbling bass drums, à la Tool or Meshuggah.
While there is plenty of crushing heaviness on offer here, most of the melodies on Legacy are courtesy of the synthesised, layered Arabian strings supplied by keyboardist Elyes Bouchoucha. This is the sort of thing that would put off many Metal purists, but it does tend to complement the more traditional Metal elements to great effect. This is most notable on Through Your Eyes, where the cinematic synths and frantic percussion combine with a catchy chorus to produce an epic atmosphere, and the ballad I Want to Die which, thanks to the impassioned vocals and gutsy, layered guitar solo, manages to be somewhat uplifting despite its introspective, melancholic nature.
One criticism that must be pointed out though is that there is ultimately not a lot of variety here. Many of the tracks here blend into one another; of the five tracks that I’ve not mentioned thus far, I don’t really have anything to say besides what’s already been said about the others! Does this mean Myrath are a band lacking in ideas? You might say that, particularly as they are, to all intents and purposes, a Progressive Metal band, but I personally would just say that they’re a band who’ve been lucky to find a signature sound that’s got a lot of mileage; after all, who cares that AC/DC have made a career out of writing the same song over and over again!? The important thing is, despite the lack of diversity, Legacy remains exciting and engaging throughout its 50 minute duration.
In short, some Prog Metal fans might bemoan the lack of diversity here but, if you like your Folk and Power Metal, yet want to try something a bit different, Legacy is a window into an exciting new world.