Review Summary: Unique music always leaves greater impressions than generic music. Myrath are unique in their ability to conjure mystique from a land that is not normally known for metal, and to connect with the listener on a personal level - through prog-metal!
It is inevitable that a progressive metal band from Tunisia will not start out being known very well. Even after sophomore release Desert Call
was promoted by Nightmare Records, Myrath are still a quite unknown name in the prog-metal community. However, people coming from complete obscurity and living in a country such as Tunisia, with a rich cultural, culinary and religious background, and surrounded by the Sahara, are almost certain to pull off something unique. This Myrath have done: to listen to Hope
is like a journey into the band’s desert house in its sense of ability to connect with the listener.
The words Symphony X clone
are most frequently used against bands such as Adagio
(closely related) and Myrath themselves - albeit, of course, with an Arabic twist. This could not be further from the truth. Very soon into the record, despite the frequent trappings of progressive metal, it is clear that the Tunisians do not have a shred
of pretension. Although Russell Allen and company can get away with it, there is no denying that Symphony X is extremely pretentious. The most obvious proof of the bands' different personalities is in Myrath's lyrics booklet: this text is personal, positive, and quite spiritual in nature. Over the eight songs, the character of Hope
repents of the seven deadly sins and begins anew. Such is the way of the desert.
The whole 52 minutes contains the atmosphere of the Tunisian sand dunes, and the album itself is built on creating this mood. Elyes Bouchoucha shines as one of the most unexpected stars in the genre, utilizing a similar style to Russell Allen but applied in a different manner. His voice frequently has a rough edge, but like Gojira
's Joe Duplantier and Twinspirits
' Goran Nystrom, all but the harshest shouts contain a sense of melody. Those harshest shouts are practically death growls: the instrumental section of the nine-minute title track contains quite unexpected, wordless growled vocals. The use of harsher vocals than typical for prog-metal accentuates the struggle of the album’s narrator, while their melodic quality creates a dualism between light and dark.
Malek Ben Arbia's riffage and lead work are two other large components of the album’s sound. His taste is one of the most sublime in the genre: the riffs are typically simple chords, grooves and chugs, there to create atmosphere more than anything else. The double-tracked chug with both tracks in different meters that opens the song Last Breath
pulsates helplessly, almost out of breath. Often the chugging locks in with drummer Saif Ouhibi in a rhythmic battery that displays the influence of Circus Maximus
– though slower-paced, as is the norm for Myrath’s music. Arabic and African music is highly rhythmic, and accordingly Saif makes use of various beats, complex fills and occasionally ethnic percussion.
The biggest treasure of Hope
, oddly enough, is its mellower moments. Bassist Anis Jouini is usually heard here, and his playing and Malek’s solos draw clear influence from blues and jazz. In addition to Symphony X covers, Myrath’s early years as Xtazy included a lot of blues covers. My Inner War
even launches into jazzy blues territory during its first half! Malek Ben Arbia makes liberal use of fast melodic scales and slow leads that blaze with light, either supporting the dualism or taking over the mood of the piece. Elyes also plays the keyboards, and they largely take on two different styles: the symphonic, baroque style that Adagio would use, or a more Dream Theater
-like rhythmic role that mimics a traditional Tunisian flute. Even when used during the heavier sections, Elyes’ keys stay melodic and tasteful and surround Hope
with the atmosphere that could only come from Tunisia.
Like all the best bands, Myrath succeed because of that reason: their music could only come from one place. The best bands that depend on the “bag of influences” method of composition still sound like only one band, rather than all their influences at once. Myrath did both of those here. Their journey of a thousand miles to the throne of progressive metal now begins...with this one small step.
(Originally written for the Encyclopedia Metallum.)