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Melechesh has pretty much grown into its own genre at this point – from the kinetic, epic black metal maelstrom Sphynx, they cleaned up the production on its follow up Emmissaries and made a more accessible sound. On The Epigenesis they went all out and made their most creative, intriguing work to date.
This is an inimical, iconoclastic work that defies genre conventions, predictability and cliché. You get black metal blasting and tremolo riffing, some thrashy parts here and there, Maiden-style twin-axe galloping and midpaced dirges with atmospheric moments more easily heard in epic doom/heavy metal bands – all these elements are sort of blended together in swathes as if in a big cauldron; an alchemical combination of guitar styles and heavy metal motifs that blasts the gates down with authority, conviction and charisma.
The warm, open, sort of jangly production sound only adds to the atmosphere on display, and the clean sound gives you space and room to hear all the album's textures and layers, which is a real plus. Main man Ashmedi's vocals are a dry, venomous snake-like rasp and he sounds like he's been buried in King Tut's tomb since Emissaries - in other words, awesome. Xul's drums are superb as well, and he shows off a nuanced, layered performance and gives these songs an extra level of complexity. Staggering work.
But the real star of the show is the guitars. The riff-craft is immense and the band understands the way the classic metal bands knew how to do it – the riffs here are fiercely thrashy and volatile, but melodic and nuanced enough to recall bands like Judas Priest or Celtic Frost in style. The songs are long, serpentine uncoiling constructs with a lot of momentum – a lot of them are quite long, but the band infuses enough drama and different riffs that they don't get dull, and there are also plenty of ear-catching Egyptian-style ambient bits throughout that make for a nice tonic from the heaviness. That way, the songs never get cloying or feel too over-saturated – the band knew exactly where to put in wild bursts of thrashiness and calm ambient parts.
The songs are just impeccable. Bow before the midpaced crunch of opener “Ghouls of Nineveh,” which has a monster riff that you'll never forget, magnetic and heavy as hell, or “Sacred Geometry,” which is maybe the closest the band ever got to Maiden-style traditional metal. “Grand Gathas of Baal Sin” is blisteringly fast, and being one of the few here with that high-velocity tempo, it sticks out more and works to highlight the contrast with the midpaced songs. Brilliant tune – the main riff and drum combo sounds like a dirtbike spinning out of control at high MPH speeds.
“The Magickan and the Drones” is a wild, thrashy epic that comes at you like a raging bull, and “Mystics of the Pillar,” by contrast, is an oppressive, towering song with a droning main riff that makes me feel every time like I'm lost in the sands of Egypt and the Sphynx, that great stone beast, is in the far-off distance. Further songs like “Illumination: The Faces of Shamash” and “Negative Theology,” along with the 12-minute crawl of the title track, boast more commanding, authoritative riffing and idiosyncratic guitar grooves that rock and roll and show off the band's roots as well as the horizons they've set sail toward, which look bright from here.
When I first heard this album, I didn't know what the hell to think of it, being that at the time, my only experience with the band was Sphynx. But I kept playing this, because of exactly that – it was intriguing and weird and mysterious, and over time I grew to love the blend of styles and the masterful, idiosyncratic songwriting command the band gained here. This is a proud monument to everything great about metal; an imaginative, heavy, guitar-driven album with much for the ears to feast on, and it shows how ingenious and creative the genre can be when it wants to – all without sacrificing the main guitar-driven idea that metal was born on. For pure metallic songwriting excellence, The Epigenesis towers over all competition. Give this one some time and let it grow on you – it's more than worth it.
The name Melechesh is derived from two words. The first is “Melech” which means “king” and the second, “Esh”, means “fire”. The title, “King of Fire”, is well deserved as this Jerusalem based band turns up the heat in the metal arena. The band has invented the title of “Mesopotamian metal” as a means to describe their unique take on the black metal genre. Their 2006 album, Emissaries, was just a brief taste of what was to come from this band. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved Emissaries, but this album takes the term “epic” to nearly unreachable levels. The only way I can explain how talented this group is at creating a stunning blend of unique, destructive, and entrancing music is by saying that they must be Magickans. This album takes its rightful place as one of my favorite black metal albums of all time for numerous reasons.
For starters, this album is unique in a much needed way. The black metal genre has yielded some absolutely horrid acts that utilize no ingenuity. All in the name of being “kvlt” or “tr00”, most black metal bands, mainly in the underground arena, sacrifice sound quality and creativity to outdo one another as far as how raw they can make their sound. What I love is when a band can be raw while not confining themselves to poor sound quality. Melechesh utilize much more crisp production quality to their advantage without losing any songwriting skill. The guitars use a tone that sounds very Middle Eastern. This is a huge advantage for the album because they do mix traditional Middle Eastern instruments including drums, horns, and a variety of others to their unique brand of black metal.
Not only does Melechesh have a great sound, they also have songwriting skills to match. I like to describe this band as a riff based group. Other bands such a Nile put a lot of emphasis and attention on the drumwork. The drums are the most prominent instrument in Nile’s sound to me. With Melechesh, the approach is very different. The guitars lead in the sound of the band. The drums are heard very well and are tastefully played by Xul, but the central focus of the album is not on the drums. More focus is shifted to the riffs. This is a good move on Melechesh’s part because the riffs they write are absolutely brilliant. Not only are they well written and structured, but they are addictive. If you love albums with memorable riffs that stay in your head for a long time, this album is for you.
The riffs on this also contribute to one of the best reasons as to why I love this album. The sound this album has is in a word, hypnotizing. The way Melechesh works with riffs, rhythms, and Middle Eastern sound effects creates an atmosphere that you lose yourself in. Songs will sometimes run longer than what most people are used to in order for riffs to become deeply ingrained in your mind. I’ve heard many complaints about the song lengths on this album, but I think that the lengthiness of the songs is actually another element of Melechesh’s genius. The song lengths, to me, allow more time for the overall atmosphere of the album to be fully ingested and the riffs are so well written that they hold your attention all the way through the album.
As far as the lyrics on this album go, they are not your run of the mill black metal lyrics. The lyrics are usually based on Sumerian and Mesopotamian mythology. The lyrics are intelligently written and Ashmedi’s vocals are destructive, even among black metal standards. I feel like his vocals have improved a good bit since “Emissaries”.
The brilliant guitar riffs on this album come straight out of the gate with their first song, “Ghouls of Nineveh”. It’s a slower track on the album which really sucks the listener into the hypnotic abilities of the band. Both this track and the following, “Grand Gathas of Baal Sin”, have the guitar riffs extend the song length by a couple of minutes after the main singing parts are complete in order to really drive the hypnotic power of their music out into the open. A fantastic addition to the end of “Grand Gathas of Baal Sin” is the chanting that comes in for the last couple minutes of the song. A little further along in the album comes “The Magickan and the Drones” which has one of the most intense riffs on the album. After the song beats the listener into the ground for a few minutes, the guitars have a moment to themselves and horns join in the fray which displays a wonderful mix of traditional Middle Eastern instruments as well as electric guitar and drums. The two instrumental tracks on here, “When Halos of Candles Collide” and “A Greater Chain of Being”, really bring forth the Middle Eastern influence of the album. “When Halos of Candles Collide” has a very creepy atmosphere to it while “A Greater Chain of Being” utilizes many different types of Middle Eastern drums. “Defeating the Giants” picks up the pace of the album very quickly. It’s the shortest track on the album, but delivers quite the punch. The album ends with the twelve minute title track. The highlight of this song for me starts at around six and a half minutes in. At this point in the song, there is a building guitar sound which results in the most intense and creepy guitar work I have ever heard. It’s brief, but it’s absolutely fantastic. Fortunately, despite being the longest track on the album, it really doesn’t get boring.
All in all, this album is fantastically put together. The riffs are memorable, the style is unique, and the lyrics are well written. Melechesh have definitely made a name for themselves among the underground metal scene and rightfully so. If you enjoy Middle Eastern music, black metal, addictive riffs, or unique music in general, then check these guys out. This album has a lot to bring to the table, and it is truly an experience. I highly recommend this album to all metal lovers out there.
Favorite Tracks: All the tracks on here are great, but my favorites are “Ghouls of Nineveh”, “Grand Gathas of Baal Sin”, “The Magickan and the Drones”, “Defeating the Giants”, and “Illumination: The Face of Shamash”
Emissaries was (perhaps appropriately) my introduction to Melechesh, and I was immediately blown away by the viciousness packed into that record. I wasn't sure how the band could possibly follow up on that, but Ashmedi, Moloch, and cohorts did not disappoint. Speaking of whom, it's worth noting that the band finally found a full-time drummer, and while it's no small task to follow Proscriptor's performance, Xul is up to the task and brings quite a lot of personality with him.
First things first regarding the album, it's not Emissaries part 2. It's just not. Some people will be disappointed by this. Those people can shut the hell up. Melechesh has never released the same album twice, always displaying a remarkably disciplined sense of progression. As Jerusalem Burns... was a straight-up raw black metal debut, which fed into Djinn's increased pronouncement of the Middle Eastern elements. Sphinx refined the formula and focused it into a much more direct assault, and Emissaries took THAT to a whole new level.
But now that Jerusalem has burned and the Djinns of this earth have departed, carried in the colossal sphynx-like chariots, the emissaries' task is fulfilled. This is the testimony of the Epigenesis. Which is to say, if Emissaries was the unstoppable rampaging warrior, The Epigenesis is the arrival of the king of fire in all his majestic glory to lord over the conquered lands. The album is ridiculously nuanced and intricate, with all sorts of hidden melodies and subtle textures just below the surface. I'm still finding new elements with each new listen nearly a year later. But of course, I wouldn't have it any other way.
See, here's where it all comes together for me: Melechesh have done their homework. Unlike certain other bands (coughNilecough) who throw in some scales with a minor second interval between scale steps three and four, Melechesh actually understand what Middle Eastern music consists of. If you look at the classical music from that part of the world, you'll see complex melodies in slightly odd but – dare I say it – danceable rhythms and enough musical filigree to put the western Baroque period to shame. I mean, come on, just look at that cover art! So what we're hearing is actual Mesopotamian music in a proper setting with black metal instrumentation. It is, in a word, glorious.
But of course, all of that could be for nothing if the music just plain sucked. And this is a metal review, after all, not an ethnomusicological academic paper. So how 'bout them riffs? You like riffs, right? We got your riffs RIGHT FUCKING HERE. In track order, because I'm lazy like that, we lead off with Ghouls of Nineveh. You get a good sense of what to expect of this album right from the start, between a perfectly headbanging slow-grinding guitar riff and extra instrumentation ringing out. That said, it's a bit of a slower song, carrying a more contemplative atmosphere than the last album's still-mind-blowing Rebirth of the Nemesis.
But don't worry, this isn't an album that's content to stick to mid-paced grooves. Nine spirits wreak havoc and remain ever defiant with the next track, which actually has a pretty sweet music video. Towards the end, we get a bit of that chanting the band is so fond of. Just a word on the chanting, though: I'm a bit confused. The lyrics give it as “Sin, Baal Sin” but I'm hearing it more as either “Baal, Baal Sin” or maybe even “Grand Baal Sin.” But who knows, maybe I'm just crazy and my brain is playing tricks on me.
The third track, Sacred Geometry, brings those wonderfully twisty melodies. Think of the more “ethnic” tracks from the previous couple of albums. If you just listened to this track, you wouldn't get much of a sense of the band's progression I had mentioned above, but hey, sometimes it's good to not fix what ain't broke. Speaking of which, the album contains two more of those non-metal instrumental tracks. Both of them, though, feature better writing than Emissaries' Scribes of Kur, which I felt was the album's sole weak point. When Halos of Candles Collide is an odd one in that sometimes it fascinates me, but other times it does absolutely nothing for my listening. A Greater Chain of Being, however, is a perfect track to open up for the title track, a twelve-minute tour de force of everything the band stands for.
My favorite tracks have got to be Illumination: The Face of Shamash and The Magickan and the Drones. The latter kicks off with an understated intro, but before long launches into what is probably the most intense riff on the album. The droning horns towards the end are a great touch, too. As for Illumination, just listen to those guitar flourishes! And you will have to listen, because they're performing them for effect, not to show off. There's not a whole lot else to say about this song other than it's got solid as hell writing. If you like Melechesh's guitar work, you will love this song.
This album shows Melechesh maturing in their songwriting, but unlike most other bands for whom that means “mellowing out and sucking,” the kings of fire haven't guttered out at all. They remain as driven as ever, but they attack the writing process with increasing mastery, allowing them to take the art to new heights. And no, I will not stop fanboying over this band. They are simply amazing, and if you have any appreciation for metal with a sense of melody, you should listen to them. While I'd recommend Emissaries as an introduction to the band for its directness, The Epigenesis may be the band's best album yet.
I got this cd for Christmas and I rushed to listen to it because I always get excited when I have something new to listen to. I already knew 2 songs from “The Epigenesis”, namely “Ghouls of Nineveh” and “Grand Gathas”, thanks to the free sample cd that comes along with a metal magazine I usually buy. Those two I already knew were very good songs, but I really didn’t expect the entire album to be this good. For well over an hour the listener is taken through a full experience to the senses, mainly driven by the perfect mix between melodic black metal and Middle Eastern parts that make you feel like you actually are in a tent in the middle of the desert surrounded by priceless jewels and luxury. This album is pure luxury to your ears.
It has pretty heavy tracks such as “Grand Gathas”, “Sacred Geometry”, “The Magickan and the Drones”, and “Negative Theology” that would fit perfectly any melodic black metal taste, with powerful guitar riffs, perfectly accompanied by a double bass drumming that will make you bang your head through the whole length of each song.
There are also tracks that will give you some time to breathe before hitting you with the next breathtaking endeavor: “When Halos of Candles Collide” is an instrumental masterpiece that has more folk elements in it than it has metal, but it combines both elements perfectly and calms you down before “Defeating the Giants” (the shortest song in the album) blasts in your face with a full black metal sound, unleashing pounding drums and savage guitar riffs. “A Greater Chain of Being” delivers you an astonishing Middle Eastern folk experience for almost 7 minutes, completely acoustic and intensely atmospheric, enveloping you in hypnotizing melodies flowing from ethnic guitars, goatskin drums, and voices calling from afar.
The best track on this album is the title track. “The Epigenesis” is much more than a simple song; it sums up the whole essence of the album for over 12 minutes, mixing all elements that you can enjoy throughout the album all at once: the ethnic guitar, the slowed down riffs, the pummeling drums, the middle-paced tempos, the oriental atmosphere, and a black metal feel that wraps everything tidily together and leaves you hooked until the final 25 seconds when the guitars fade out and the journey comes to an end. When you look at the time, you can’t believe that 71 minutes are gone because while listening to the album you were suspended from reality. It really is that good!
I love it when I discover new bands that make me more excited about heavy metal music, a feat I thought impossible since it’s pretty much my life’s passion. My latest find to my personal arsenal is Israel’s Melechesh, a described ‘black/death/folk’ metal outfit that offers its latest album in The Epigenesis. I familiarized myself with the band by picking up As Jerusalem Burns...Al'Intisar and Emissaries and I think I’ll be following this band more closely in the future.
I can certainly hear Middle Eastern elements in Epigenesis, yet the blackened death feel is always a constant, which is always a good thing. The opening track “Ghouls of Nineveh” really floored me with that little succession of power chords that just get your blood pumping and your neck bouncing. I also dig the vocal in that breathy rasp that makes you feel as if you’re in the presence of some spectral force that is breathing death into your ears. I can definitely hear the Middle Eastern flavor spread over the music, more evident in some spots than others, but subtle or not the band takes its roots and ancestral lineage to a brilliant height. “Grand Gathas of Baal Sin” is an unforgiving black metal tread through mires and sand-filled ruins; this song just shreds the entire mood in the room to tiny bloody scraps and keeps hitting you when you’re cowering under your rare vinyl collection. The combination of classic riffs and brutal tremolo picking sweeping over the room is enough to make even the most closed-minded fool sit up and stop crying long enough to realize what they’re hearing is just overpowering.
Keeping right in line with Emissaries this album has some really fast-paced material, and while Emissaries is a great album of technicality and style, Epigenesis seems to step up the pace even more, providing a flourish of heaviness and curt, polished songs that make Nile looks like Nickelback. The production is right in your face throughout, retaining all edginess and chaos in just the right package for total and unbridled consumption. What makes Melechesh so interesting and captivating as a unit is the total slavery to the precision chord structure; this band doesn’t shred blindly, folks, and one listen to a track like “The Magickan and the Drones” lets you know just how attentive they are to detail and creating a riff that stays in your head for hours after. The vocals, the tightness of sound and playing, the cerebral efficiency of the lyrics all make for a fine record. All underground should swallow this one whole!
These guys should be heralded all over the underground, and Epigenesis is just the latest in a strong discography. When a band this solid comes along and destroys you so perfectly, you can’t help but keep going back for more. Israel is definitely on the map!
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)
Most people don't know it but let me tell you, Melechesh are one of the most important and vital bands of the current (extreme) metal world. Why it's not a well-known fact is that (trust me on this) most so-called metalheads can't embrace the mix of technical virtuosity, ethnic influence and ritualistic fervour of a Melechesh record and instead choose to settle on a play-it-safe record like those released by Bullet For My Valentine. This Dutch-by-the-way-of-Israel black/death/'folk' metal troop have risen to the Nuclear Blast echelons through nothing but hard work and perseverance to release their fifth album "The Epigenesis", a record whose spirit and defiance is signalled by the majestically un-metal, yet fantastic, cover. Buy it on vinyl for this alone I hearten thee.
At 11 songs in 71 minutes its taken some listens to know "The Epigenesis" well enough to discuss intelligently what Melechesh are doing here; only two songs dip below 5 1/2 minutes and each is packed with multiple interweaving riffs and feelings, akin to a multilayered and confluent classic novel. In "Grand Gathas Of Baal Sin", "The Magickan And The Drones", "Illumination - The Face Of Shamash" and "Defeating The Giants" Melechesh perform fantastically well-written riffs in a grand variety of tempos that hark back to the band's fiery black metal past while making the best of vastly superior production qualities afforded to them today. "Ghouls Of Nineveh", "A Greater Chain Of Being" and "When Halos Of Candles Collide" showcase a more experimental side and the willingness of the band, mainman Ashmedi in particular, to tap into a deep personal interest in the spiritual and musical culture of his Middle Eastern upbringing.
Short of these all being tracks worthy of purchase for their sheer enjoyment, the deeper meaning that lies at the heart of everything Melechesh provides extra enjoyment; through the use of authentic scales in the band's 'metal' riffs as well as genuine Arabic instruments every moment lies flooded in the well of geographical influence, done considerably more artistically than all too many yokel folky bands that instead get all the attention from your aforementioned metal fans.
To say all this without further clarification would intimate I regard "The Epigenesis" as, thus far, Melechesh's defining work, but such is my personal admiration of 2006's "Emissaries" it is with a heavy heart I place it one small step below. Further time and listening opportunities will be of great benefit as there is no doubt whatsoever a band like Melechesh necessitates the fullest of attention to unlock the power of the band's mystical, beautiful, downright dangerous concoction of extreme ethnic metal music; the kind all others can only aspire to.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
"Mesopotamian" black metal band Melechesh blew a lot of minds with 2006's Emissaries, so it's no wonder its follow-up The Epigenesis has been so widely anticipated after a four year wait.
The music is clearly the Israeli expats' unique brand of thrashy, Middle Eastern-inspired black metal from the get-go. Every single track has riffs inspired by the unusual combination, and it's still just as compelling as ever. There's also a great deal of traditional instrumentation, including two instrumentals which are all-traditional and several places where it's worked into metal songs.
It's also immediately apparent with the slow-paced opener that this is not the same album done over again. Where Emissaries was unrelenting, The Epigenesis is more varied and experimental. Most of the songs are slower, including the progressive title track at the end and opener "Ghouls of Nineveh", although some ("Defeating the Giants" or "Grand Gathas Of Baal Sin") are high-speed with plenty of blast beats. "The Magickan And The Drones" may be the most obviously black metal offering, with its dissonant counterpoints in the primary riff, but even it drops the blast beats and goes into a much slower section.
Ashmedi's black metal rasp is, if anything, improved from their last outing (and includes some much deeper growls here and there), and there are brief moments of clean-ish vocals as well as traditional-sounding chants.
Highlights include "Sacred Geometry" and "Grand Gathas Of Baal Sin", which shows everything the album offers in microcosm along with some bone-shattering bass drum (or possibly a larger traditional drum).
The Verdict: On the whole, the album isn't quite as good as its predecessor (the opening track is pretty boring, and a couple tracks might be longer than necessary), but it's very, very good anyway, and shows a band not content to sit back and play it safe.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/