Review Summary: Ambitious, menacing, conceptual in all the right ways. "Enki" is an album which uncovers more as you discover further, but also demonstrates Melechesh's ability to stand out from their peers.
It's hard to disagree with the fact that Enki
, the latest album from Jerusalem/Netherlands-based extreme metal group Melechesh, has been promoted in the right way. And we're not talking about Nuclear Blast streaming the album in full on Youtube here (though it's a nice little treat for newcomers to the band), but something much more vital for those who wish to learn about the grandiose concept surrounding Melechesh's sixth album. If you read several interviews concerning the new album, you'll understand that frontman Ashmedi, who comes across as a very proficient and knowledgeable man when regarding the historical legends of his homeland, is a very focused individual. And in these same interviews, Ashmedi always manages to come back to the main point that, when used in the right way, historical folklore/legend can be a vital part of any album from any band.
Case in point: 2015's Enki
, an album which explores all corners of the mythology concerning the god of the same name. The sixth album focuses on three aspects of this mythology-Enki (The god of gods in Sumerian/Mesopotamian mythology), Enlil (The counterpart of Enki, apparently) and The Outsiders, which fittingly enough serves as the catalyst for the closing song. Yet for extreme metal, it's common knowledge that this is really nothing new. Countless others have attempted to hark back to the past in order to fuel fresh songwriting (Nile, Behemoth, Winterfylleth, etc.), but what you really have to consider when listening to Melechesh's latest material is how well all this mythological information is conveyed through swirling cacophonies of black metal-inspired riffs and tasteful folk involvement. As far as that particular point is concerned, Enki
is something of a marvel.
Musically, Melechesh continue to surpass their own standards here. The Middle-Eastern grooves are very prevalent in every bitter, twisted riff exploding out the stereo, and Ashmedi's venomous growl fits in accordingly. Whilst some songs are notably more complex and progressive than others ("Enki-Divine Nature Awoken" is worlds apart from, say, "The Palm, The Eye and Lapis Lazuli"), there always seems to be a hidden, malevolent spirit churning its way as each song spans from beginning to end. The powerful opening song, in fact, is probably the best example of this. Introduced via a maniacal riff, "Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged" surges through at an explosive rate, meandering through hellish sounds and that distinctive Middle Eastern beat all the way through, the icing on the cake designed by Ashmedi's bitter vocal delivery. The same can be said for the shorter songs, notably "The Pendulum Speaks" and "Metatron and Man", though with even faster pace and more extreme musicianship.
Whilst the extreme metal side of Melechesh mostly has the upper hand however, you can still hear the subtle additions of folk instrumentation if you concentrate hard enough. I'm not talking about the opening, sinister vibes of "Enki-Divine Nature Awoken" or the whole of eight-minute long "Doorways to Irkala" (which seems too laidback for its own good) here, but the distinctive Middle Eastern chants hidden in the background throughout "Multiple Truths" and the excellent closer "The Outsiders". The former is affected more so than the latter, of course, but hearing additions like this really gives you more of a taste of what Melechesh set out to do originally-and here, they do it well. You can hear the menacing vibes of the Sitar in "Enki...", the extra slices of keyboard-led atmosphere on "Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged", and Ashmedi's traditional clean vocal delivery towards the end of "The Outsiders". And all the while, everything seems tight-knit, as if the album was never meant to overstay its welcome.
It may prove too much for newcomers who aren't used to hour-long albums centering around one particular concept and catapulted forth with multiple musical ideas, but Enki
really does achieve legendary status-for Melechesh, at least. What Melechesh are doing here is no different to what Behemoth did on The Satanist
, or even Nile on Annihilation of the Wicked
. Yet the subtle touches of folk-inspired flair and Middle Eastern groove are enough to distinguish the band from the extreme metal pace, and their sixth album demonstrates it perfectly.