I'll be honest, I don't know much about world/ethnic music. I've heard a few albums from unknown African composers (not on my own power, mind you) and things of that nature that seem to conjure up images of ancient tribal rituals, but I am the furthest from being experienced in the field. When I first learned about Raxa, a predominantly metal project from Russia, I was a bit hesitant to listen when I learned they use a large portion of ethnic music in their aesthetic. I was unsure of how a relatively unknown and inexperienced band could incorporate such a vastly different musical approach to metal, one that doesn't seem like it would fit in well with what could be described as a near polar opposite to metal.
And yet, somehow Raxa makes it work with their debut Mezovedic
. It might be the fact that their tribal tamperings are drawn out throughout the album as a mere backdrop to their primarily metal experiments. Or maybe its their knack of creating timely, beautiful melodies that lurk around every indecipherable chant and tribal drum hit. Either way, Raxa combines equal parts ambience, ethnicity, and fairly excellent metal riffage to construct something truly otherworldly. The images that world/ethnic music conjure up are still there; a lone bird soaring over the Savannah, men in crackling skull jewelery dancing around a fire, underground tombs of ancient myth. These aren't things that I necessarily look to see and hear in a metal album, but Raxa do a remarkable job at letting their metal roots slowly dissolve the ethnic music around it. Instead of a give and take of ethnic and metal, Raxa use clever songwriting and drawn out tracks that instead meld the two distinct musical styles together to create something original. "On The Twisted Way To The Eagle Tribe" starts off with a lovely guitar strumming pattern over distant screams until the song breaks into an almost psychadelic freakout that could have been in an Enya album, until the song engulfs into metal frequencies. And under all of this zig-zagging, there's still ethnic undertones and as apparent as it is, it's difficult to grasp where exactly those undertones are coming from. Even "Venus", the middle interlude of the album, while being almost completely ethnic and tribal, has hints of metal in there somewhere. Perhaps this is Raxa's greatest strength, to make a song sound one way, and yet the song almost unravels into something completely different on your 2nd listen.
Each musician is fairly skilled in his craft as well, as solos pierce the audible sky and the drumming is at times fast and frantic. The vocals could use some work, but are perfectly placed in the mix as to not overshadow the music and composition, whether it's a growl or clean. Well-placed synths also appear on the album giving a grandiose feeling like in the droning and beautiful "Even, Wept Over The Absent". Unfortunately there are times where Raxa's play on different genres and styles works against them as is the case in opening track "Matenextic Peuhtica", where the song seems to shift through so many segments that aren't very fluid, it's difficult to get a grasp on the full song. However, Mezovedic
seems to only get stronger as it goes on, so even if "Matenextic Peuhtica" throws you off a bit, the album gets tighter as it goes, almost as if the album starts to spiral to a significant point. It's also a monster of an album, clocking in just under an hour, so be prepared to allow everything to sink in for a while before ctriquing.
is somewhat of a strange listen, it's no doubt equal parts beautiful, punishing, and wonderous. It's definately a recommended listen if you're a metal fan first and foremost as the album is built on harsh growls and riffs thrown all over the place. But even if you're not, Raxa have created something that essentially the whole world can enjoy.