Album of the Week 42-2012: Myrath – Tales Of The Sands

My first real encounter with Tunisia’s Myrath was when they toured with Orphaned Land last year. I had heard some songs from their debut album ‘Hope’ and dismissed them as a Symphony-X clone with a Middle-Eastern touch. Was I ever wrong. As shown on ‘Tales Of The Sands’, Myrath produces a unique blend of progressive Metal and Oriental music, mostly accented by the downright fantastic Tunisian orchestra conducted by keyboard player Elyes Bouchoucha. In a musical climate where everything has already been tried, it’s hard to be blown off your feet by something completely unique. But that’s exactly where Myrath succeeds.

From the moment I started listening to Metal, something has attracted me to Middle-Eastern touches, but it wasn’t until I discovered the likes of bands from that area, such as Orphaned Land and Pentagram – the Turkish one, naturally – that it truly grew into full-fledged love. Myrath deserves a place amongst those bands, but does something one-of-a-kind with their inspiration from northern African Malouf music, most apparent in the percussion and orchestrations appearing in many songs, and their powerful singer Zoher Zorgati, whose voice is something of a blend of a strong Rock belt and a full-on Arabic holler. The vocal acrobatics of the latter side are impressive. Also, Myrath’s compositions are so surprising and forceful that an open-minded fan of music can’t go wrong here.

Although there is definitely something of a clear Myrath sound, no two songs on ‘Tales Of The Sands’ sound alike. Most of the songs have very strong choruses, which isn’t exactly typical for progressive Metal. The catchiest is probably the Arabic chorus to ‘Beyond The Stars’. I have no idea what Zorgati sings there and the booklet doesn’t help much either, because I can’t read Arabic script, but somehow I always try to sing along, because the melody refuses to leave your head. Malek Ben Arbia’s guitar solo in the song is amazing as well. Another brilliant chorus is spotted in the breathtaking ‘Sour Sigh’; super heavy riffs topped by Zorgati at his strongest. ‘Wide Shut’ gives a lot of space to the majestic orchestrations, ‘Merciless Times’ is another song that makes me sound ridiculous as a western man vainly attempting to sing these Arabic melodies, but I just can’t resist and ‘Under Siege’ is an incredibly strong opener that sums up the album pefectly. The title track spots another dreamy Arabic chorus.

The production by Adagio’s keyboard player Kevin Codfert is nothing short of stainless and gives the album just that little extra push. Everything sounds crisp and clear and there’s even room for Anis Jouini’s incredible bass lines when Ben Arbia’s guitar riffs and the orchestrations are way up front. It’s remarkable how little things get in the way of each other here.

With ‘Tales Of The Sands’, Myrath definitively earned its place amongst the absolute top of Oriental Metal. And mind you, they were far ahead of the pack with its direct predecessor ‘Desert Call’ already. It’s almost sad for all the western bands trying out these Middle-Eastern and north African overtones, because bands like Myrath, Orphaned Land, Melechesh and Pentagram will always be ahead of them due to the fact that they have this music in their blood. One thing is for sure: if you are interested in Oriental sounds, you need to hear ‘Tales Of The Sands’. It’s impossible not to be impressed.

Recommended tracks: ‘Sour Sigh’, ‘Beyond The Stars’, ‘Under Siege’, ‘Wide Shut’

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