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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”