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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.