Mekaal Hasan Band
Andholan (Special Edition)


4.5
superb

Review

by OmairSh CONTRIBUTOR (34 Reviews)
April 27th, 2020 | 70 replies


Release Date: 04/25/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An exotic fusion of Darker Progressive Rock, Pakistani Sufi music, Jazz Fusion, and Psychedelia. MHB's finest hour.

NOTE: This review is for the 2020 version with re-recorded vocals from the band’s original vocalist Javed Bashir, as opposed to the original album that had former female vocalist Sharmistha Chatterjee. Both albums are on Spotify and other online streaming platforms with slightly different album art.

Pakistani guitarist extraordinaire Mekaal Hasan has been active in Pakistan’s music scene for over two decades now. Whether it has been in the capacity of songwriter for his namesake Eastern jazz fusion band, solo work, or production/engineering work for some of the biggest musical talents in Pakistan; he has had his influence in not only Pakistan’s, but the Sub Continent’s, rock scene since the early 2000s.

The Mekaal Hasan Band (MHB) has been an outlet for Mekaal Hasan to explore his Western rock and jazz influences, as well his Pakistani classical and Qawwali inspirations, with Andholan being the band’s third outing. With every successive album the band has indulged further into rock territory and Andholan is no exception. It’s the band’s heaviest album to date, and sees an increase in the number of sections with faster tempos and more intricate arrangements. The Pakistani Folk and western jazz fusion influence are still intrinsic components of the compositions but have been fortified with the amalgamation of hard rock, progressive rock, and psychedelic elements to create a tantalising musical cocktail that requires multiple listens to reveal all of its layers.

The prime culprit behind the album’s heaviness is Mekaal’s guitar playing. His distorted guitar tones are richer and more sinister sounding than ever, which make the riffs and melodies more dense and enigmatic. He’s incorporated a diverse palette of tones ranging from crisp leads, to psychedelic and hypnotic cleans which add to the mystique of Andholan. The musical complexity has increased from a musicianship standpoint, but more intriguingly from a layering and song structure perspective. At times there are three or more guitar tracks, while other sections contain multiple vocal, flute, and keyboard layers that provide a grandiose and immersive atmosphere to captivate the listener. There are some technical riffs and harmonies between instruments, most typically the guitar and flute, but they do no disservice to the melodiousness of the music. The musicianship is stellar, with the rhythm section providing a fluid foundation upon which Mekaal Hasan’s compositions flourish. Ahsan Papu’s effervescent flute playing, and Javed Bashir’s emotive and reflective vocals paint an ocean of emotions for the listener to dive into. The flute is an even more intrinsic part of the music than before, harmonising with the guitar riffs at times, while also sprinkling melodies and leads throughout. Examples of the tasteful instrumental interplay are present on tracks like "Bheem", "Maalkauns", "Champakalli", and "Ghungat". Honestly, there's potential for Ahsan's flutes to be incorporated even more, they can play more melodies underneath the vocals for example, supplementing keyboards since MHB has no keyboardist. There seems to be so much sonic territory for the band to potentially explore in the future.

The dark guitar tone and effects, hypnotic flute, and vocal performances on here enhance the sense of melancholy in the music. Yes this album is heavy in many ways, but most notably in terms of it's ominous atmosphere. The sonic depth of this album is achieved as a result of Mekaal’s extensive production and sound engineering experience, with all the instruments sounding rich and warm, and having been given ample space in the mix to leave an impact. At places some instruments could have been even higher in the mix, but it sounds like there were a lot of instrument tracks to incorporate, and with that in mind I can’t really fault the mixing work done since the spirit of the music is still relayed quite effectively. I feel the album would have been strengthened with the addition of another five to six minute track, but it’s better for an album to be shorter and leave you wanting more, versus being lengthy and tiresome. So again I can’t fault the band too much for the album length since it feels cohesive.

Vocalist Javed Bashir is still not an official member of MHB, however I wouldn’t mind the band re-recording every future album he’s not on with his vocals. No disrespect at all to previous vocalist Sharmistha, but this album feels rejuvenated with his performance. I’m a big fan of Mekaal Hasan and as such am more inclined to enjoying his music, however if you're open to listening to music which contains the flair and mystique of Sub Continental music meshed with the sensibilities of Western Hard Rock/Progressive Rock/Jazz fusion then I’m sure you'll find something on this album to enjoy. It requires some time and patience to unpack, but when it clicks its such a refreshing surprise. Best enjoyed with speakers. Looking forward to where they go from here.

Recommended Tracks
1. Bheem
2. Maalkauns
3. Megh
4. Ghunghat

Band's Spotify page: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2uU2C4SNKcHqBzPjRrBvVy

Both albums are on Spotify and other online streaming platforms with slightly different album art.

Update (29/04): Mekaal Hasan contacted me and informed me there were no keyboards on the record, so I've updated the review with this info



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user ratings (16)
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
April 27th 2020


17565 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

1. Ghunghat [5:04] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6Ia3O2jl2Q

2. Bheem [5:51] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZSYDlpInMs&list=TLPQMjcwNDIwMjA5ryHqiompAQ&index=3

3. Sindhi [3:37] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmB6UDOL7gI&list=TLPQMjcwNDIwMjA5ryHqiompAQ&index=6

4. Megh [5:47] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-feoQF6Ff7U&list=TLPQMjcwNDIwMjA5ryHqiompAQ&index=7

5. Ghunghat (Female vocal version) - LIVE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncF2E_Y5iU8



A quick write up for this since I've been digging it A LOT atm. Hopefully some of you guys are curious enough to check it out



Both versions of the album (male/female vocals) are on online streaming sites like Spotify, etc.

Band's Spotify page: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2uU2C4SNKcHqBzPjRrBvVy



SitarHero
April 27th 2020


13653 Comments


Checking this out now and it's pretty sweet stuff. Gino Banks played on this?! Dude is a legend.

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
April 27th 2020


17565 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Woot woot Sitar fam! It'll take a few spins to fully digest, but it's refreshing stuff.



Ayeeee dude he did! Gino officially joined the band back in 2014 I think. It became an Pak-Indo band for a few years ("with our powers combined!") :-D.



You know how difficult it is to be financially successful with this kind of music, esp in our region, so I think the band has endured another lineup change unfortunately

brainmelter
April 27th 2020


7659 Comments


this looks cool will give it a listen

SitarHero
April 27th 2020


13653 Comments


"You know how difficult it is to be financially successful with this kind of music, esp in our region"

Actually I think this kind of fusion-y music is probably the most popular type of non-filmi music, or at least, it was when I left. Bands like Indian Ocean (RIP), Raghu Dixit Project, Thaikuddam Bridge and Karthik Iyer's IndoSoul are pretty big deals because they cross over to both English-speaking and vernacular audiences.

Also, I dunno if you ever checked them out but check out Agam and Pineapple Express. They have elements of classical music, particularly Carnatic, but with lots of modern influences too.

Jethro42
April 27th 2020


16814 Comments


I've listened to ''Ghunghat'' and ''Megh'': as expected, I really dig it. Will listen to the whole thing ASAP. I need to revisit Saptak as well.

Great and super-positive and enthusiastic review, Omairbro. 5 it!

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
April 27th 2020


17565 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

@brain: Hope ya enjoy dude!



@Sitar: That's very cool man! I think the market for that music is probably larger in India than Pak (well the market for everything is probably larger given the population :D), but thanks to Coke Studio, Nescafe Basement and other platforms, there has been a revival in the Pak rock scene. Especially with lots of younger artists, and that's great to see. Agam and PE sound interesting man, searched Agam on Spotify and I'll check it out , thanks for the recs dude!



@Jethro: Haha thanks man! Yeah there is some bias in my review since I've been a fan of Mekaal and the band for ages :D. It's a great album, however there are a few weak areas, but I'm still sitting with the album so lets see if the rating fluctuates :-). Glad you're digging it, though I'm not surprised ;-)



Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
April 27th 2020


26515 Comments


Oh so this is the band you rec'd me. Saw this review a few days ago but forgot to comment. Nice write up btw man, got me interested.

Knowing myself I'll probably check the previous singer version too, since I prefer female voices in general ;)

Digging: Ethereal Shroud - Trisagion

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
April 27th 2020


26515 Comments


Just compared the two versions of Bheem and yep I prefer the 2014 version haha, it has Thy Catafalque vibes at times.

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2020


17565 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks dude! Haha nice you had already traversed here eh. Well I'm glad that they have both versions so that you can check the one with the female vocals :D.



I like both versions but her voice can get a bit shrill for me at times. The male vocalist was the band's original vocalist and is huge in Pakistan. His profile outgrew the band and he departed, he just had too many offers to refuse and I can't blame him, it's even rougher financially for musicians in Pak. But I'm glad he re-recorded his vocals on this. I'm enjoying it more thanks to him.



Hope you enjoy the rest dude! It's a grower

Trifolium
April 28th 2020


27948 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This sounds so promising Omair, will definitely check when I'm connected to the www again in my new home. You can see this as a reminder for Trif of the future.



Also: nice review!

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2020


17052 Comments


I loved Ghunghat, cool fusion.
Nice review Omair, pos'd.

Digging: Malignant Altar - Realms of Exquisite Morbidity

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2020


17565 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks for the POS' guys! Damn it's been nearly 5 years since my last review heh



@Trif: Sounds good man! I've shared a few links in my first comment if you want to test the waters.



@Notrap: Glad you liked it man! Some interesting stuff happening on here. Album's been on my playlist for the past few days. I like to step away from albums, even for a day or so, and then come back. It keeps things fresh



widowslaugh123
April 28th 2020


3138 Comments


Not really my thing but I’m one song in and digging it hard surprisingly. It’s got edge and a certain kind of darkness that I feel like most prog and fusion lacks. Haven’t read the review yet and only on the first haha but still

widowslaugh123
April 28th 2020


3138 Comments


Oh wait I’m listening to the 2014 version

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2020


17565 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Glad you're digging it widow! The 2014 version has female vocals, so see whichever you prefer. My personal preference is the new one.



Yeah agreed man, it's got a sense of mystique and darkness about it. It's very layered as well. I've listened to it 15+ times and still discovering elements. A lot of thought went into it I'm sure

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2020


17565 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

In my first comment I've added the live version of "Ghungat" with the female vocalist. You can compare the two and see whichever you prefer



It annoyed me that the new version on Spotify is in alphabetical order instead of the proper order, so I created a playlist in the proper order just for it haha

Jethro42
April 29th 2020


16814 Comments


Album is at a minimum a 4 worthy. Will take the pleasure to listen to it couple more times. Your recommended tracks are legit. Maalkauns (I think) has similitudes with Jethro Tull that is pleasant. Thanks to bring to us such great music!

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
April 29th 2020


17565 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Glad you're enjoying it dude! Thanks for being open minded about checking this kind of stuff out :-). I love having other people discover this music.

Edit: Forgot to respond about the songs. Agreed man it has a Jethro Tull feel at times, thanks to the flute. Like a beefier version. I think Bheem has grown to become my favourite atm. That transition at 1:30 is my favourite of 2020. Sayon is also nice, very warm and mellow. Megh is almost spiritual. Would be good meditation music I feel



When I listen to this I get this feeling of being in some psychedelic forest. The colours and textures of the Album art also contribute to that. They performed Sayon and Kinarey in coke studio. I really wish they would have also performed one of the longer songs

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
April 29th 2020


17565 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

So I sent a dm on fb to the band with this review, not expecting anything. Mekaal ended up contacting me and wanting to discuss lots of new music he's been busy with. He even shared new tracks in confidence (which is super flattering). 14 years ago I was in undergrad jamming the hell out of MHB music and now we're talking on the phone, discussing his upcoming music. Life's a funny thing



He's remastered all 3 MHB records with modern production and has a solo release coming AND new MHB stuff. Lots on the horizon!



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