Review Summary: Progressive death/doom from the Middle East. Or as the band calls it, Dark Oriental metal from Jordan.
The middle east has proven to be a powerful and influential breeding ground for extreme metal as the torchbearer’s Orphaned Land still remain a prominent modern power in the world wide metal scene. Melechesh is still hanging around tough and continually proving themselves as one of the more exciting things to happen to black metal in recent times. Distorted, the female fronted progressive metal band led by the exotic beauty, Miri, is growing to be the most successful middle eastern metal band to date. Signing onto metal powerhouse “Candlelight Records” is without a doubt the best thing that Distorted have ever done. As a good label would do, Candlelight has properly financed and promoted the band through several American based magazines helping the band receive several legions of new fans, myself included. Another middle eastern metal band destined to become huge happens to be none other than Bilocate. Originally based in Jordan around 2001, the band has released two album’s independently with the brand new opus, ‘Sudden Death Syndrome destined to make some waves. What makes the band worthy of all this hype you ask? Clearly it’s the musical style and professional execution of Bilocate that has me jumping through hurdles to acquire.
Sudden Death Syndrome is a mind-blowing journey crossing through several genres on the way including death, doom, black, progressive, and occasionally Oriental folk while keeping it bare and almost kept to a minimum. Bilocate prefer to call themselves Oriental dark metal and I guess it seems fitting considering all of the stylistic shifts and varied sub-genre diving the band undertakes. The first thing about Sudden Death Syndrome that connected to me almost instantly were the influences that Bilocate adored. Opeth and My Dying Bride immediately came to mind, with October Tide to a lesser extent. The down tempo charm of My Dying Bride can be felt in the plodding riff structures and melancholic piano melodies often employed. On the other hand, Opeth can be felt with Ramzi’s deep, guttural vocals almost imitating Mikael Akerfeldt. Fortunately while Opeth and My Dying Bride are borrowed as a heavy influence, Bilocate’s sound is distinctly original. 7 tracks coming in at just over 50 minutes isn’t too much to handle for the seasoned listener, however, the first song of the album eclipse’s the seventeen minute mark. Needless to say, this track “Blooded Forest” is the strongest song on the album and an all around epic fest shifting tempos as often as sub categories of metal. Blooded Forest opens up in first gear for a few minutes flexing Bilocate’s penchant for the slow and the morose only to shift to fourth gear a few moments later. The speedier death metal moments are only magnified by the excellent classical inspired piano playing and creative guitar work.
The framework for Bilocate lies in the hands of Rami and Bahad. The two form an excellent duo merging technicality and variation with accessibility and a balanced diet of heavy/melodic found only in competent playing. The riffing style is hard to pin point because they settle down between the oppressive death march of My Dying Bride just as well as the frenetic aggression of Opeth. Tempos range from slow to quick and these guys are not afraid to solo either. Soloing is professional and rewarding to the fullest extent when present. The melodies are also top notch with the eerie ambiance of Blooded Forest serving as a prime example to critique. The vocal performance is another strong aspect to write home about. Ramzi’s delivery is generally guttural to the fullest extent, bringing Akerfeldt’s frenzied cookie monster impersonation to mind once more, occasionally opting for a higher pitch although not as often. Clean vocals are present but sparingly used. Ramzi has a very baritone like quality to his voice, reminiscent of some of doom’s earliest figures. I have no opinion on the matter because they don’t really make an impact, positive or negative. Another solid display of musicianship emerges from the keyboardist Waseem. I bring him to mind because his keyboard work is very atmospheric and at times ominous without sounding over abused or out of place. Unfortunately, the bass and drum performances leave’s a lot to be desired for. The performances aren’t bad by any means but just end up a little underwhelming instead. Hani’s bass work is generally present yet uninteresting. The drumming position is filled in by Ahmad to cement the band positions. Plenty of catchy double bass and slow to mid tempo patterns common to aggressive heavy metal but Ahmad tends to be swallowed up by the other instruments on more than one occasion. With the few complaints aside, Sudden Death Syndrome is an exceptional record.
The biggest surprise for this record comes from the professional songwriting and slick production job one would expect from a major label budget. Sudden Death Syndrome was actually produced and released independently and to this day, Bilocate remains unsigned, for how much longer remains to be seen. With the minor exception towards the drumming, the production is extremely huge and rich sounding. The guitar’s and keyboard really stand out as some of the best performances I’ve heard in recent times. Songwriting is fresh and varied enough to appease the most critical of metal judges around so I have no doubt in mind that this album will start to pick up some steam. Overall, if you consider yourself a fan of progressive metal, Opeth, or My Dying Bride, Sudden Death Syndrome is an album that you need to acquire. Definitely one of my dark horses for 2008 and also an album that is quickly climbing past my higher ranked albums for the given year.
Good call, you're right about Blooded. I began to mispell it. I actually wrote the last two paragraphs about a half hour before going to work so i'm not really suprised. I mispelled soloing too but I fixed that.
Oh look, neg much. Bet it's that fruitcake abyss.This Message Edited On 10.13.08
Middle eastern metal just does not work with me. I was extremely disappointed with "Mabool (The Story of the Three Sons...)" by Orphaned Land, which got so much praise I couldn't ignore it, but the whole middle eastern theme just kills everything. I'll check some myspace tracks though and we'll see.
Top notch review Balls. I've read so many of your review at this point in time and I've only seen you improve since then. I might give this a listen seeing as I'm in the same boat as Crysis with that Mabool album. The whole bloated middle eastern themes just kill it for me as well. I'm not going to pretend I'm well versed in middle eastern culture and therefore I will not hype an album that I do not understand.
I haven't seen this much closemindedness in metalheads since....... the formation of metal. But seriously, whatever beef you guys have with the middle eastern themes really don't affect the album. I'm just confused with with all of the digging towards Scandinavian and Euro based stuff but not the Asian/ Middle Eastern stuff. Anywho, i'm confident you guys will like this.