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Over the past few months, the world's eyes have been set on the Arab world, with breaths held in anticipation of the rapid political changes that are taking place. Myrath is a progressive outfit emerging from one of the region's smaller nations, Tunisia. Being the first metal band in the country to ever reach a wider audience, Myrath (the Arabic word for 'Legend') have engaged audiences already with two albums of top-tier progressive metal, fusing Middle-Eastern traditional musical influences in with their brand of melodic metal, much as the more established band Orphaned Land does. With a unique mixture of sound, excellent songwriting, and great execution, Myrath's 'Tales Of The Sands' is a fantastic album in its own right.
Being someone who was under the impression that exciting melodic prog metal died around the turn of the millennium under a blanket of Dream Theater clones, it has been a huge refreshment to hear a band that may be doing something similar to the legends of the genre, but are putting a validating new angle on their sound. Before listening to what Myrath had to offer, I was admittedly fighting a doubt that this could be a run-of-the-mill power metal band, using sounds of their homeland as a gimmick to pull in listeners, but as is fairly rare for my experience with metal music, I was proven wrong. While progressive power metal mixed with Arabic music sounds pretty much as one might expect, the Oriental sounds in the music are infused superbly in with the metal, not sounding contrived, but instead as a sincere element of the songwriting.
As far as Myrath's overall sound is concerned, I could most easily compare them to the neoclassical power metal titans Kamelot, except with the obvious replacement of European classical influence in favour of Middle-Eastern music. 'Tales Of The Sands' is a noticeable lean away from the Oriental sounds when compared to their earlier work; the Arabic music is still an integral part of the music, but its presence is more moderate. Without this main draw of their sound though, Myrath would still be an upper tier melodic progressive metal band. They do sound quite a bit like bands like Symphony X or Kamelot, but the whole thing is done so well, and unlike so many melodic prog metal apostles, Myrath knows how to make it heavy . The guitar parts here are chugging and low in many parts, especially on a track like 'Sour Sigh', which moves from a dramatic symphonic intro to a series of dark and heavy riffs that makes you think there could be a growl around any corner, but Myrath sticks to the clean and melodic vocals.
Zaher Zorgatti really a magnificent vocalist, and while at times he sounds like a pretty standard power metal vocalist, its his ability to do the metal vocals and traditional Arabic vocals with equal strength. The metal instrumentalists here are excellent, with a particular applause going to the rhythm guitar sections, which manage to sound larger than life. The Middle-Eastern sounds here are also much more than the gimmick I thought they might pull; it really sounds like authentic Arabic music has been mixed in with the metal. It's the Oriental influences which take the album from being great to being excellent.
There's really not too much I could complain about when it comes to Myrath's third album. The songwriting is all top-notch, even when the band ends their album on an AOR note with 'Apostrophe For A Legend'. It would be great to hear this band take their exciting blend of styles past the four or five minute mark and compose something even more ambitious, but Myrath's work is consistent and expertly produced. This is a great album from Tunisia's contribution to the metal scene, and I've been pleasantly surprised by this band's sound.
Myrath’s Tales of the Sands was preceded by two equally beautiful albums, Hope and Desert Call, all of which share the same formula of oriental/progressive metal fusion. Adding more to the epicness of the album, it was mixed by Frederik Nordstorm (Dimmu Borgir, In Flames) and mastered by Jens Bogren (Symphony X), and this outstanding staff did a stellar job on this album, the clarity; the quality of Tales of the Sands is nothing short of amazing.
If you’ve followed Myrath’s career in the past, you’d probably know how they also sing in Arabic in their songs, though this wasn’t prominent in Hope and not as much in Desert Call, Tales of the Sands introduces more songs with Arabic lyrics, the most notable of which being “Beyond The Stars”. I personally find the use of Arabic poetry along with their equally fitting English lyrics a mix that adds a lot to the album, making it unique to all the other progressive metal acts out there.
The band members are more than capable with their respective instruments, shown throughout the entire album with not one riff similar to the other and are all quite technical, especially the bassist with the small bass interludes present in most songs, most of which, all instruments are turned off with the bass blazing alone prepping you mentally for what will happen next. From personal experience, that was one of the very few “Eargasms” I’ve experienced. The solos are amazingly fitting to the music and the drum work is very nice for the genre, and also with the oriental percussion present in almost all of the songs you won’t feel like the drums should’ve been faster or anything.
One of the songs I really enjoyed in the album was Tales of the Sands: the way it starts, melodically, moving your body to the music with the riffing behind the melody making it necessary that you should headbang! Also, Tales of the Sands is the first song in the album featuring Arabic lyrics that are again nothing short of spectacular.
The album concludes with Time to Grow, which starts off with the keyboards doing a bit of an electronic solo that progresses onto the rest of the song with the rest of the instruments working equally perfect and stay loyal to the original feel of the album, creating a mix that is enticing and captivating. Near the end of the song during the guitar solo, the bass rips off into another solo while the keyboard is still working its magic until the song ends.
In my personal opinion, Tales of the Sands is one of the best oriental progressive metal albums to grace 2011.
(Review Written for: http://pierrejiskandar.wordpress.com/)
It's not often that I get to hear a lot of knockout progressive metal within such a quick succession, so the close of 3rd quarter 2011 is frankly spoiling the piss out of me: first with a formidable effort from Anubis Gate, second with the Arch/Matheos collaboration and now with a new full-length from everyone's inevitable, exotic heroes Myrath of Tunisia. This new release, Tales of the Sands is not so much a step forward from last year's Desert Call as that was from their 2007 debut Hope, but it's an ample successor with just as much practiced variation, seasoned compositional exposition and arching vocal prowess. Well integrated orchestration and omnipresent local percussion really give you a sense for who these guys ARE, and where they COME FROM, and just how many suburban Dream Theater doppelgangers could you say the same for?
Essentially a more attractive and memorable evolution of the schema set forth by New Jersey's Symphony X, there's not really a track that passes here where I don't feel immersed in some North African sojourn into the deceptively barren landscape. Multi-lingual lyrics, lots of ethnic vocal patterns and drums, and synthesizers that tempt and taunt at the listener like a mirage, Tales of the Sands could simply not have been more aptly titled. But no matter how far or how worldly Myrath might seem at times, they never distance themselves too far from their metallic core, whether that be the thick power metal subtext played out against the harmonies in "Braving the Seas" or the Dream Theater-like grooves strutting through the title track. Even the rabid raver electro bits that inaugurate "Requiem for a Goodbye" pay off due to the drums and almost immediate launch into a desert metal melody; and through "Wide Shut" and "Beyond the Stars" they hammer away pretty hard for this genre, weaving the aggression straight into Zaher Zorgatti's delicate thunder like fine linen.
What's even better, there is not a single damned ballad to be found on this album. No taking the easy way out, no compromise for the ladies. Tales of the Sands is a consistent environment, perhaps even more than its predecessor, though the band might no longer have the ability to surprise the listener (since Desert Call was so damned good). The professional mix here and the talent of each instrumentalist should easily place Myrath upon the radars of the progressive minded who fancy their fare clean and proficient. They don't exactly break the mold of their parent niche, but twist it into something localized and immediate, memorable and reliable that begs for repeat listens. I won't say that it hits the same high bar as its predecessor, and there aren't as many moments of sheer, passionate explosion as I experienced there, but Tales of the Sands proves that these upstarts are no fluke, but a formidable hymn of hope and reawakening in an all too stagnant international scene of lackluster DT & Fates Warning clones.
So, Tunisia is probably not the first place you think of when the overflowing planet of progressive metal lights up your hippocampus, but Myrath has been kicking obstacles and geographical biases square in the sack since 2006, and they've released a few records that gathered critical acclaim and even a sturdy fan base since coming to life. The band's unique postulate continues under its patriotic banner throughout "Tales of the Sands," a ten-song platter featuring an in-depth dive into Arabic progressive metal. Myrath structures an interesting plate of progressive metal that holds technical and mechanical elements one could compare to Symphony X at helm while blending an elegant spice of Middle Eastern instruments and melodies into the mythical ability of each member; it's not only well-composed, but ethereal and majestic as well.
"Tales of the Sands" imposes a stern balance between fundamental progressive metal rooted deeply in algebraic rhythms and a degree of technicality which shines with substantial similarities to Dream Theater and especially Symphony X (their main influence, and it shows) while incorporating a number of Arabic instruments and melodies at each turn of the sand's tide. The band weaves through a number of standard prog-inspired riffs that have hints of classic, old-school metal and little dabs of progressive rock in the vein of Rush, but keyboards and active percussion are incredibly prominent in their ideology as well; while not original or unusual, the chops are tight, efficient, and well-calculated considering Myrath's texture. One quality that sticks is the unpredictable change of tempos that this band undergoes. Each song moves at its own pace, with some demonstrating a mid-paced, chorus-based frontier, yet others bend and weave through an electric journey of hyper projections which flash Arabic melodies and touches at head-banging velocities.
But you know, the formula they use works wonderfully, as there’s never a dull track that refuses the Arabic zest or musical interiority. Zaher Zorgatti's vocals are aggressive, dramatic, compelling and divine, like Russell Allen if the Symphony X singer fell in love with Arabic influences and made his primary group change gears entirely. Zorgatti is a rare breed, however; he can hit godly notes, and his stability as a vocalist when applying high chimes could shatter the sound barrier. Surprisingly, there's a bonus track that some versions lack entitled "Apostrophe for a Legend." There aren't many differences stylistically speaking, but the overall instrumentally reigns supreme, and Zorgatti's finest performance also presents itself. I'm just wondering why this is an outtake!
The only item missing is an authentic, crunching epic that reaches beyond the ten-minute mark, only because Myrath has proven that they are a supplemental asset to the world of progressive metal, through both their instrumental precision and the striking nature of this album's prime compositions; they could forge a gigantic cut with sheer magnificence. Regardless of my little complaint, "Tales of the Sands" is a superb, top-notch display of Arabic themes gracefully jolting Myrath's otherworldly view of progressive metal with an aerial sense of craftsmanship and phenomenal prose. Few releases of this niche are both daring and creative, but Myrath has successfully drawn their line in the sand and forged a monstrous collection of high-caliber music, which is quite the daring feat, because now we know Tunisia means business, and it might become the world's capital of progressive metal if Myrath can continue this pristine manufacturing. Don't pass up on this.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com