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This is superlative extreme metal. "Berserk" is the sophomore album of Bouq, a black/death band from Jordan solely run by one Muhannad Bursheh, who also plays in other well known band's in the country, and is an audio engineer in the scene.
According to the band's bio, it all started in 2001, where the project was previously called "Phex". Under that name were released 3 demos in 2001, 2002, and 2003, and 1 studio album in 2005 called "Transfixion". After the name change to "Bouq", the first studio album was re-issued in 2010 with a different artwork, different title; "Ascending from Transfixion", and of course got released under the new name of the group; "Bouq". The 2nd studio album "Berserk" followed shortly.
If you listen to both studio albums, you can easily notice the difference in style, atmosphere and complexity, and the huge improvement between the 1st and the 2nd. While the first album "Ascending from Transfixion" is rather catchy, but simplistic groovy death metal music, the 2nd album "Berserk", which is our current study subject is very complex, dark, leaning more towards the black metal side, to some point experimental, and masterly in song writing.
While lyrically it focuses on various mythological themes, the music does not adopt a folk attitude, but rather leans towards the dark and barbaric realm of sound, however, there are a few folk inspired parts in a couple of tracks to add some spices to the record. The riffs are mostly raw, but epic choirs and passages with keyboards are added sometimes, which give a majestic resonance. As I mentioned earlier, the song writing is superb, there is not a single moment of dullness or monotony on the record, every riff and passage is well arranged and calculated. The guitar work and drums vary from fast pace to moderate tempo, and from groovy, to plain traditional riffs, to technical ones. The vocals are versatile, often changing between different extreme metal pitches - even adding some operatic clean vocals in some tracks. The sound production is excellent, which gives the songs a fair home to be well expressed.
The flow of this album is very dynamic, fast paced tracks suddenly change into acoustic harmonies, or tribal war drums interludes with war chants. Although the deep pool of inspiration of various different extreme styles can be felt, the album as a whole remains very unique, and truly something I haven't heard before. I will be following "Bouq" head on to see what the next release will bring us. I really recommend this band to any fan of extreme metal.
Desrever Alumrof Ecnetsixe, Jormungander, Eidolon, Heathen
When I first received this album from the band itself I was relatively unsure what to expect. At the same time I was curious to see what this band can offer. Why is that? Bouq comes from Jordan, a small country in the Middle East, an area not so well known for having big and developed metal scenes. Although I do hear of interesting bands from there from time to time, you can never be sure what to expect when asked for a review. It is safe to say, however, that after listening to this album I was completely shocked and very impressed.
First off, as a side bonus, the packaging of the album is very professional and looks awesome, something you wouldn't expect from such an underground band. It has a booklet with lyrics, credits, info, even a statement from the "band" - here I'm using quotations, because the band is actually made of one man, Muhannad Bursheh, who does everything including the engineering and the production for the record.
Bouq is a black/death band with themes about mythology and ancient history. Generally, the album, which is the 2nd full-length in the band's career, sounds very solid, intense, and dynamic, and although mostly closer to partly raw sounding extreme metal, it is not short of epic and melodic elements including the use of synths in several tracks. There is an apparent use of some extra instruments like tribal percussion and flute in some parts to nourish the overall sound. The guitar work is really great and excellently performed as well as the vocals, which are very diverse and professional. The composing shows well developed musicianship and sense of understanding. What also impressed me is the excellent sound production which sounds powerful, clear, and full, which is another thing unexpected from an underground band, especially coming from that area.
Without warning or a gradual intro, the first thing you hear is a fast-paced, black metal-rich, unforgiving song, "Berserk - The Grand Raven Feast". The song is generally fast all over with some dynamic shifts and a lot of use of tribal percussion. "Desrever Alumrof Ecnetsixe" follows, starting with a weird but very cool intro of sound effects and keyboards accompanied by groovy drumming, then suddenly metal descends with fast whipping guitars and blast beats, this track is very dynamic and "beaty" and varies from quick parts with blast beats to moderate tempo parts with slow 'thrashy' grooves. The third track, "Jormungander", also begins with an authentic intro, using a whammy-bar for rhythm guitar with nicely-done keyboards in the background. This track introduces a death metal element along side the still evident black touches, and also it has a nicely-done acoustic guitar part which leads to a catchy ending with a very impressive oriental- sounding guitar solo. A short track called "Nature's Cult" follows, full of ambient sounds that doesn't really add much to the album, but still an interesting listen and does not put the album down in anyway. Track 5 is "Eidolon", probably the heaviest track on the album, adding yet a more prominent death metal element which presides here. It is a very fast and very groovy track with interesting arrangements and even progressive elements. The track "Heathen" follows, starting off with an epic and eerie introduction using keyboards, then a war-like connection comes in using tribal drums, female choirs, and war horns. This leads to an astonishing entrance to the metal part with slow tremolo, huge guitars, and double bass, and the track keeps going, changing from part to part. Very impressive stuff. The track is followed by "Wrath of A Warrior's Soul", one of the more experimental tracks on the record with its haunting, cleanly sung choirs and operatic clean vocals at some parts. An excellent track. The final track, "Of Ragnarok", is also very dynamic with an epic intro, working as a great ending for the album.
I thoroughly enjoyed every track on this record and I have to say I am very impressed. I recommend this album to any extreme metal fan.
Highlights: Deserver Alumrof Ecnetsixe, Jormungander, Heathen, Wrath of a Warrior's Soul
Same year, new story … at least in certain boundaries. While some aspects of Bouq’s art have remained the same, a progression in style and concept can nevertheless be discovered. Compared with the first output, this one consists of more powerful music and the listener is able to grasp some of the intentions behind the concept.
Berserk gives the impression of a potpourri of ideas. You have death metal influenced tracks, some have a folky touch, while other follow a black metal formula. All is presented in a surprisingly well crafted – mainstream oriented – production, which reflects the background and skill of Muhannad Bursheh. To hear music of such a quality from a small country like Jordan, places the so-called underground scene in the Western hemisphere in a somewhat awkward position. From the current perspective already it might be interesting to know how this album will be perceived in a several years and whether the style and concept presented here could have a significant impact on the Jordanian heavy metal scene.
Again a certain emphasis had been put on the death metal – less black –, whose influences stretches from modern interpretations aka Nile to old-school ones in vein of Morbid Angel. Accordingly, the music breathes a mixture between oriental influences and aggressive/heavy riff structures, which adds up to a formula that has gained some prominence in the West already; through various projects and interpretations. Bouq attempts to balance everything out in neat and proper way; the long track Heathen is a good example for this. Even though it is opening rather slowly, the death metal soon takes over, while slower interludes keep up the Middle Eastern atmosphere – or to be more precise to remind the listener on them – and a calm ending closes the track.
This approach can be found in varying degree over the whole course of the album. Considerably heavy/powerful death metal on the one side and quite calm ambient influences on the other one, while somewhere in between lies the truth. The song-writing is generally really good and there is actually not much to criticize. A mixture of exceedingly catchy and aggressive moments was found by the Jordanian band, with the result that the listener is actually able to catch some breathe. Unlike other bands, here no barrage after barrage is being fired upon the person, who wants to enjoy this piece of art. Rather, a well crafted mixture can be found. Would the release have a bit more identity and real drums – maybe even some sick solos – then the quality would be even higher.
In some respect the name of this release is reflected through the music. To go berserk is to reach a trance-like state of mind in which a fighter becomes uncontrollable; according to historic sources drugs played a vital role in this respect. Bouq sound similar. The music meanders between various styles and even though the listener does not always get the impression that the band feels completely ‘at home’ in any of them, the performance is still as such as to fascinate in a certain degree. From the current perspective it sounds a bit too overloaded; not so much the tracks themselves, but how they are presented in the total. Moreover, a track like Nature’s Cult sounds a bit random and displaced, especially due to the rather short length as well as the abrupt ending. It is there, but fails to merge with the rest of the art.
Nevertheless, this release is really recommended and should the band be able to spread more music of similar quality, then Bouq might be band to talk about in the future and about their impact on their scene.
Bouq are a one-man band from Jordan based around the efforts of Muhannad Bursheh, which on second album "Berserk" sees him release an unwaveringly blistering extreme metal attack befitting the band name that apparently translates as 'war horn'. The album, which by and large is a fairly well developed affair for a one-man band mixes Marduk extremity, a strong war feel, a few of the Middle Eastern flourishes found in Bilocate and a fair smattering of synth effects, notable in the introduction to "Heathen" and "Desrever Alumrof Ecnetsixe". Bursheh's vocals tend to rest on the very gruff and ghastly akin to Blood of Kingu's; yes, one could argue they add to an overall demonic atmosphere but much of "Berserk"'s 38-minute duration is actually more varied in mood than most utilisers of such a vocal style. Not until closer "Of Ragnarök" do bellowing clean tomes appear, unfortunately too late in the party for their beneficial effects to take hold.
Being a sole unit the inevitability of drums come into question. The blurb I have includes drums as one of Bursheh's accomplishments, but crucially, 'programming' is in there as well. The precision triggering at the heart of many a moment here suggests there is as much 'programming' as 'drums' going on, most confusingly found in the short instrumental "Nature's Cult" which is both amateurish and a surefire way of all but eliminating any chance of widespread success. One just can’t help but feel these moments have been pulled from a pre-production demo rather than a finished product. Getting past this reveals tracks like "Wrath Of A Warrior's Soul", "Of Ragnarök" and "Jormungander" the possessors of a dark spirit and a few decent riffs to suggest Bouq/Bursheh has something going for him, but given the average quality of much else to be found there is still a long way to go before you'll find me raving about this release as I did the aforementioned Bilocate one.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
As a small introduction I would like to talk a little bit about heavy metal in general, concerning the differences of the music in general dependent on different regions. While everybody knows that depending on where the music was written and recorded, the sound is always unique. The point of interest here are those bands that really create something unique and not copycats or unoriginal artists, of course. Take for example Scandinavia, Europe, the USA for interest and even further examined the single countries, say Norway or Sweden. You will always notice a good difference, even in the same niche or genre. While we've had constant development in sound and technique in the Western world since, and this is very arguable but let's lay it on the table, say the 60s (remember we're talking about rock/metal in general here so I'll lay the roots to modern day metal in the 60s) there still are many parts of the world where this type of culture does not have room to develop, for many different reasons, be it state, religion, society or simply the lack of means to do such a thing. When I think about the Middle East and music I think about Kanuns or those oriental looking small string instruments with chants or prayer to accompany it. It may be stereotypical, but since I have no experience whatsoever in those parts of the world (yet), that's the typical portrait for me. So when I first heard real metal music from the Orient, it was only a handful of bands such as Melechesh, Salem or Orphaned Land. When you compare that to the number of "major" or "cult" bands in the West, well you get the idea.
Now with a seemingly small number of artists who dare to make this sort of stuff, especially the extreme part of metal, one would normally be inclined to think that lacking a real established scene, the music won't go very far. Well ever since I've listened to Jordan's Bouq (Arab. war horn) I've realized that even some obscure project can sometimes really blow your mind in terms of originality, sound and execution. While my knowledge on the topics dealt with here on 2010's Berserk is rather dim, that does not affect my fondness for this CD. Multi-instrumentalist Muhannad Bursheh really manages to create an album that is simply stunning and that no one would of thought to be really that good. Judging by the booklet of the CD, this guy plays guitars, flutes, timpani, drums and all sorts of percussion, keyboard and does a lot of sound effects and whatever else you can hear on this CD. That by itself being quite impressive, he also has talent in arranging songs that will capture your attention and keep you interested. It doesn't matter if you're the best musician out there technically, if you don't have that certain je ne sais quoi that makes your music cool. But this is not the case here. The album sounds great, the mixing is good, none of the instruments seem to be in foreground, the vocals are nice and aggressive, the songs are not filled with all sorts of lame gimmicks, instead it's like an extreme metal symphony from the Middle East.
Berserk sounds like a lot of stuff that one has heard before, but not in a lame copycat sense; you have your occasional Morbid Angel or Behemoth here or there, you have black metal influence and even chants and that sort of stuff, but surprisingly enough it still sounds like something new, like something is happening over there which is good. Since music always represents oneself, what can this tell us? Only that there are other musicians on the other side of the world that are giving their contribution to the music. The grunting and heavy songs on this album are all that one would imagine from a good metal record, amazing dark and gloomy atmosphere with a great production and epic tunes. Simply majestic and recommended for every fan of death/doom/black or any type of heavy music in general.
(metal-archives.com and metal observer on 2.03.2011)
You haven't heard of this band. They are fucking awesome. I have a sizeable boner for albums coming out of Jordan and Saudi Arabia among other Arabic countries, particularly Al-Namrood and the excellent Narjahanam. Once again, and not a moment too soon, I've been confronted with yet another slab of Middle Eastern metal as hungrily metallic as it is atmospherically unique.
For an album that claims to incorporate tribal atmospheres, Bouq's Berserk opens with a percussive blackened charge of needling riffs and throaty growls. 'Berserk - The Grand Raven Feast' is a fucking strong opener, slightly tribal drum beats complementing a grim motif of riffs and gory blasts more at home in the ugly black/ death metal of Australia or Southeast Asia.
Bouq's style is a baleful black/ death metal assault comprising simple but spot-on riffs and appropriately horrific, slavering growls. The tempo varies from vicious charges to slower or mid-paced stretches that trudge without hope of an oasis. Subtle synthesized hums sometimes modestly augment the marching Eastern riffs, such as on 'Desrever Alumrof Ecnetsixe', but your ears are attuned to the relentless guitars. This album means business, and barely a moment of it's 38 minute runtime is squandered on thoughtful folky wonderings when there are instruments to be destroyed and killer riffs to wield. The crashing 'Jormungander', one of my favourites here, is unrelenting in its fresh-blooded blasts and double bass, with whirring riffs cavorting menacingly over the kit carnage - punctuated in a twanging acoustic break and all ending in a harmonized melodic riff saturated in evil and tension.
Quiet moments of folky instrumentation and sound effects are restrained as mentioned, although present. A short instrumental called 'Nature's Cult' passing swiftly before Bouq roar back in with the Behemoth-influenced and massively epic 'Eidolon'. The sinister chants that open 'Heathen' soon make way for wrathful rolling double bass and Immortal-inspired blackened chords. Often the dry sounds of traditional Arabic instruments are forged into the solid iron of Bouq's blackened and deathly assault. 'Wrath of a Warrior's Soul' is a blistering exercise in merciless thrashed up, Deströyer 666-like extreme metal that lays waste with snarling riffs - then a slower mid-section of haunting growled chants. Closer 'Of Ragnarök' thrusts rusted scimitars straight through your heart with its climactic appropriation of Eastern-sounding keys and instruments while discharging one last eruption of lustful riffs and harsh vocals.This is seriously excellent blackened metal showing a fine ear for riffs and melodies that segue from the nihilistically mournful to the vehement and muscular.
Berserk boasts the best sound I've yet heard from an obscure Middle Eastern band, although my listening hasn't been as extensive as I'd like... yet. The perfect balance of bleak and blackened desert guitars, with burly bass guitar thrumming and nicely mixed vocals, not to mention the meaty thrash of Bursheh's drums, are no doubt a result of his activities as a producer and sound engineer in Jordan. He knows just what he wants this to sound like, and possesses the know-how to create according to his vision.
So when Muhannad Bursheh refers to ancient-spirited black metal, he means to say the black metal he creates is as ancient in its genre as the civilizations he writes about are in our history - rather than the carefully grandiose craft of Melechesh or Amaseffer. Good enough to displace Ignivomous, maybe Desaster or even Melechesh at least for a while from the CD players of their listeners.
Again, my insensitive prejudices have been proven wrong. When I imagine music from Jordan, or Egypt or anywhere around there I imagine cheaply done, sloppy raw music. While I have been shown that these bands do write quality music at times, I have always been pretty dead on with the lack of production values or western standards of professionalism. Right here though we have a Jordanian death/black act with a genuinely modern production job and an attention to detail that is as good as you'll find. The sound is bombastic and clear, and the music takes full advantage of this switching between grooving riffs, tremolos, ambiance, blasting sections, symphonics and partially electronic sounds at all times. This is very much something you could expect coming out of an American or European band.
Berserk is an album based around catchy, bouncy black/death riffing played at somewhere between a medium and fast pace. The riffs are typically pretty solid, and the heavy mix of chugging and grooves makes this sound pretty different to the usually hyper speed style. Tremolos add a little bit of a black metal flair to the sound, but the guitars are thick and the vocals gruff and low, making this generally have a warmer, more death metal vibe. Things don't change up very often, but a few little passages of extra sound effects, such as the epic synths in "Jormungander", or a more treble based riff pop up now and then to keep things lively.
The production is loud, clear and thoroughly western, largely working its way through any budget constraints with a full and well developed mix and sound. The only issue that I can find is the choice of snare drum sample for the drum machine, it's a very loud and hard strike, and works well through slower and mid paced parts, but when the blasting comes in it sounds very unnatural, a second snare sample without so much booming echo and power would have worked better. As it stands, a full speed blast beat played with snare hits that sound like they're being smashed by the apes from 2001: A Space Odyssey sounds just a bit off and weird.
As for the quality of the music it does start to run together, the pace is largely consistent and by the time you've been through to the fourth song "Eidolon" you've heard all the actual ideas that Bursheh has put on this album, and then the only things to keep this interesting are his song writing and his riffs but neither make this album ever develop beyond the initial "hey this is pretty cool" reaction which happens during the first ten minutes. The riffs are a little different from the norm so they never feel all that boring, but the quality of them never really gets beyond a 7/10 or so, there just aren't any riffs that will blow you away despite there not being many bad ones. Also the reliance on the grooves gets a little over done, occasionally cutting off a solid picked riff or interesting one, such as the middle of "Heathen" where a solid black metal riff and synth line are cut off for a one of the more plodding grooves and a dreary violin piece. He does throw enough changes in tempo into the mix to avoid it being a slog to get through, in fact it's a pretty fresh and enjoyable listen, but a combination of awkward transitions and that unrealistic blasting sound strips away the effect of a lot of the tempo changes.
This is basically Bouq's first album since changing the name to the current one and having a large change in musical style, and it is good one. It lacks the feel of the various images he's going for with his cover art and promotional pictures, but it does sound cool and I can't think of anyone who really sounds like it. The execution is far from bad, and the sound on this thing can cut it with bands from richer countries, but Bursheh hasn't really extracted anything great from it just yet, just a whole bunch of pretty good.