Review Summary: The best Metal album ever released in Pakistan
The year is 2004 and it’s been three years since the release of Faraz Anwar’s solo album which has established himself as the premier guitarist in Pakistan, if not the Sub-continent as a whole. Although there was a rapidly growing Rock scene in the region, few guitarists had dared to dabble so heavily in technically challenging guitar heavy instrumental rock music. Inspired by axemen including Allan Holdsworth, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, and Yngwie Malmsteen to name a few, Faraz set himself apart for being a risk taker and one to not compromise on his vision of bringing intelligent progressive music to Pakistan. And he had yet to release his magnum opus, until now with his Progressive Metal band Mizraab.
What Maazi Haal Mustaqbil
lets the listener know almost immediately is that the guitar playing on this gets heavy, really heavy in places. It’s a facet of progressive music that the Western hemisphere had long since been accustomed to but in Pakistan, where pop and Qawwali (classical) music reign supreme, this punch in the face wasn’t very predictable. Tracks like “Aag” and “Panchi” exemplify the heavier aspect of Faraz’ song writing, with the former in particular arguably being the heaviest track he’s ever released incorporating some crushing riffs, drumming and fantastic lead work. This isn’t to say that this album is bloated with heavy riff oriented song writing, but rather that the guitar playing is geared to serve the impact required for each song. Songs such as “Insaan” and “Muntazir” showcase a melodic rock oriented flavour with simplistic guitar hooks & catchy vocal driven choruses, while “”Kuch Hai” and “Janay Mey” delve into mellow atmospheric rock, maintaining an ominous disposition throughout. In places the song writing can feel a tad repetitive and stifled, with there being opportunities for more experimentation and pushing of boundaries. Another gripe of mine is the album’s lengthy runtime of nearly 70 minutes can make the listening experience feel a little laboured by the end of Maazi Haal Mustaqbil
One constant throughout Maazi Haal Mustaqbil
is the lead playing which is solely handled by Faraz and encompasses his arsenal, from intense shredding to more melodic phrase driven soloing. While primarily known for his guitar ability, Faraz also handles lead vocal and keyboard duties on this record. His vocals have deemed to be an acquired taste but one can’t argue that his performance is passionate and it runs the gamut from tame hums to high pitched screams, always focusing on memorable melodies. The keyboards play a supporting role and are especially prominent during the mellower sections of the album and its interludes. They fortify the solemn mood that engulfs the album; part angst, part rebellion, part coming of age, and completely metal.
The entire album was engineered and produced by the band, back in a time where the most advanced audio tools and software weren’t easily available in this part of the world. This shows in certain areas, especially the heaviest sections where the compression can make the guitars sound quite “dry” and unforgiving. The snare drum sound also leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s something that one gets accustomed to. Apart from that the instruments do sound crisp, particularly the bass & keyboards, with the bass tones in particular being sumptuous and tasteful.
Maazi Haal Mustaqbil
may not wow many people now in 2021 with the plethora of talented bands that have emerged across the globe, but if one appreciates the time and region in which this album was released, its importance and impact becomes much more evident. A true pioneering effort from one of the leading musical lights of the country at the time, and one that still stands the test of time.
3. Kuch Hai