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Welcome To The Middle East. - 80%

Perplexed_Sjel, July 22nd, 2009

It isn’t often that I discovered metal, particularly that which is primarily black metal based, that makes me want to stand up, break free of the stress that binds me and belly dance my way to Jerusalem, one of the eldest cities in the world and also one of the holiest places on this planet that is home to a species of primates fixated on the idea of having a faith to believe in so that they can find solace in a supreme being called God who will offer us a place to crash when we ourselves crash and burn. This place, stated to be the spiritual center of the Jewish people is home to this gifted hybrid band who were, rather unsurprisingly, forced to relocate to The Netherlands after they encountered some problems with the hostile locals, who are obviously incredibly religious people and intolerant of black metal rebels who evidently must be some the devil incarnate. Though, given the title of the debut full-length, its perhaps understandable as to why these fiercely religious people were incensed that the members of this band, who seem to have clean lyrics that don’t disparage religion (though I’ve not paid much attention to the lyrics, in truth) and are instead based around the concepts of Mesopotamian and Sumerian Mythology, vacate the area as soon as humanly possible.

According to the bands history, their drummer, Proscriptor (which oddly reminds me of a character from Toy Story 2 of a slightly similar name), was forced to resign from the band as he couldn’t move from beloved Israel for personal reasons. His contribution however, will always be felt as he supplied some of the catchiest drumming I’ve heard in a long time on this effort, entitled ‘Djinn’. As a whole, the concept of being utterly infectious is precisely what this record, and Melechesh in general, are all about - hence the spontaneous belly dancing that took place during the duration of this record. Even the introduction to this widely successful sophomore effort is as infectious as Chlamydia. I find that metal bands who incorporate traditional elements from their respective countries often draw more praise from me because of this. Its awfully interesting to hear what a band has to offer when they’ve increased the sense of nationalistic pride in their art form because I, as an average Englishman, am not used to hearing Middle Eastern music, particularly when fused with an intoxicating style of black metal that makes me salivate like a dog who has just spotted a plate of steak that is unattended to at a crowded party. Take a bite, go on, no one will notice!

Nowadays, it does seem to me that it is some sort of “guilty pleasure” to like anything Nuclear Blast gets their grubby little hands on. Since they’ve, supposedly, become the Roadrunner Records of extreme metal, no one wants to touch their so-called gems. Although I know that Melechesh’s sophomore effort was released through Osmose Productions, the band should have run into a monumental brick wall when they put pen to paper on whatever lucrative deal that got to work with Nuclear Blast because like any self respecting metal fan, no one wants everyone to know that they like Cradle of Filth, so they hide it, even from their closest chums, whom they could probably trust this shameful knowledge with, just like no one wants to be attached to Nuclear Blast in any way, shape or form anymore since they have successfully managed to drive a number of bands careers down the metaphorical drain of doom. To be fair, a lot of their so-called talent were no good to begin with, but Melechesh were. This band, although not truly signifying this fact on their mediocre debut, have a lot of potential to be a hybrid force in the future which, in some respects, they have started to become already with efforts like ‘Sphinx’ - which is considered the pivotal part of Melechesh’s career - and ‘Emissaries’, the last effort the band unleashed unto us.

I tend to forget where my roots were in metal and unlike most, I didn’t begin with your clichéd heavy metal bands. I often relate my roots back to the that infamous day I decided to purchase a certain record called ‘Transilvanian Hunger’, by a certain second wave band from Norway called Darkthrone but the truth is, it wasn’t until I started experimenting with bands like Grief of Emerald and Melechesh, both of which I found at the beginning of my long and epic journey to the promise land, that I truly started understanding the potential of the black metal genre. However, Melechesh are not strictly black metal, as those thrash inspired vocal screams will suggest, but they do hold the genre in high esteem, which is why it is felt so prominently throughout ‘Djinn’, the most mesmerising Middle Eastern influenced music I’ve ever come across. I find most bands influenced by this area of the world, like Amarna Sky - who aren’t as infectious, but deserve a mention regardless - for example, tend to have a charm that is found in the high levels of catchiness that is embedded deep into the soundscapes, starting with the low driving bass, to the well controlled vocals that direct the overflowing melodies of the instrumentation.

Does the Middle Eastern vibe and the lyrical content make the band more appealing on the surface? Certainly. Its always interesting to find traditional bands, who use traditional instruments from their respective countries no matter what style they play and two particularly interesting regions for this mesh of melodious music are the Middle East and parts of Eastern Asian like Japan who offer the scene intriguing conceptual bands like Birushanah, who use traditional Japanese instruments and blend them with a doom laden style to increase a level of appeal. It truly and utterly works as the fascinating material unfolds in a manner that I am certainly not used to. There isn’t any way possible that Melechesh could ever come across as uninteresting and though they’re not perfect by any means, they are never uninteresting or simply boring in their approach. Their style is multi-dimensional and breeds dynamism like rabbits - especially in regards to the imperative drumming, which is responsible for the vast majority of the catchy vibe that attention seeks throughout, as it spends most of its time skulking around the surface, looking to nab new listeners with its exquisite and exotic ideals.

Given the way the percussion, audible bass and entrancing guitars tie in so perfectly with the combinational style of the vocals and backing vocals, it’s a shame the production is as dense as it is. If it were crispy, or had a certain crunch to it, a bite, then the material would sound even more glossy than it already does, but the production is rather restrictive. I don’t think the production suited the folk inspired sound that Melechesh rely heavily on to possess their audience and it doesn’t carry the solos well either, but still, it doesn’t stop Melechesh from being the infectious musicians that they are, especially when we take into consideration songs like ‘A Summoning of Ifrit and Genii’ with its stop-start approach and ‘Dragon’s Legacy’ with its majestic influence from the traditional instruments and that sweet sounding ethnic vibe is undeniably ingenious especially when the song takes a slow, folk-ish turn with the string instruments and the commanding vocal presence that sends shivers down my spine. Although the production does dampen the effect, this is a wonderful attempt at something new - particularly if you’re interested in the lyrical side of things, since Melechesh cover a range of topics that should be considered intriguing to most people since mythology of any kind is usually very awe inspiring to the core.