Album of the Week 02-2014: Murat İlkan – Fanus

Over a year and a half after Turkey’s Pentagram prove that they could make a fantastic record (‘MMXII’) without the incredible Murat İlkan fronting the band, it’s İlkan’s turn. And like his former band before him, İlkan pleasantly surprises with an outstanding Metal release. Okay, with seven songs and a playing time of slightly over half an hour, it’s a little short, but at least all of the songs are good. Style-wise, ‘Fanus’ is on the more streamlined and catchy side of the progressive Metal spectrum, providing a refreshing take on İlkan’s mighty, powerful voice.

With İlkan playing many acoustic shows following his departure from Pentagram, a Progmetal album wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Although he’s proven through the years to be impressively capable of singing acoustic material – check out Pentagram’s ‘ (Sonsuz)’ for a breathtaking example – the direction taken on ‘Fanus’ does acount for a greater deal of room for İlkan to display the immense power his voice has. For those of you unfamiliar with it: try to imagine a Turkish take on Bruce Dickinson, with whom he shares the wide range and the force in the higher regions.

It’s the songs, however, that make a release like this and luckily, they are all incredibly well-written by İlkan with guitarist Erdem Karaman and keyboard player Mesut Uçar. And despite the songs being fairly serviceable to the vocals, some awesome riffs can be heard throughout the record. Both Karaman and Uçar do some short, but impressive leads as well. Most of the songs are built upon violent riffing, memorable choruses (the one to ‘Yaramaz Çocuk’ refuses to leave my head) and rather interesting rhythms. The two exceptions to this are epic title track – which features İlkan singing lower than I have ever heard him – and the beautiful tranquil closer ‘Sen Ve Ben’.

Highlighting the Progmetal section of the album is the amazing ‘Dil’. Karaman’s riff, the atmospherics of Uçar’s keyboards and the intense drumming of İlkan’s brother Aykan – who also plays drums for Turkish Rock diva Şebnem Ferah – already kicks in your teeth in the intro and the song remains exciting through all the changes in atmosphere between the different sections. This is probably my favorite vocal performance of İlkan as well. However, the a capella bit that opens ‘Merhaba’ (and the album) is impressive as well, before it grows into a fantastic Progmetal song. ‘Mirror Mirror’, the only English song, is the darkest and heaviest track on the album and ‘Yalan’ is a bit more straightforward.

‘Fanus’ is a flying start to Murat İlkan’s solo carreer and it leaves me wishing there will be much, much more to come. His voice is in typical amazing shape, but he’s also gathered an impressive band around him and the level of songwriting is simply astonishing. Much better than most of the big names in Progmetal even, because İlkan and his band seem to have a much better understanding of how to use musical proficiency within hooky, melodic songs. Strongly reccomended.

Recommended tracks: ‘Dil’, ‘Yaramaz Çocuk’, ‘Merhaba’

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