Posts Tagged ‘ Zaher Zorgati ’

Album of the Week 26-2016: Yossi Sassi Band – Roots And Roads

Ever since leaving Orphaned Land, Yossi Sassi seems to be more productive than ever. In fact, now that he only has his own band to mind, it looks like the last obstacle was broken down and he’s really not holding back anymore. How else can you explain the sound of ‘Roots And Roads’? Not only is the Israeli string wizard bringing east and west together again with a musical scope that borders on the incredible, it’s also the heaviest and most song oriented record he has made under his own name yet. A progressive work in the truest sense of the world.

Once again, ‘Roots And Roads’ finds Sassi and his excellent backing band combining the traditional music of the middle east with progressive Rock and Metal. There’s a distinct difference between this album and its predecessor ‘Desert Butterflies’ though; where that record focused mainly on instrumental works, about half of this one features vocals. It’s not like Sassi has toned down the sound of his band – quite the opposite actually – but there does seem to be a greater deal of memorability here. His instrumentals were always fairly well-written, but the melodies really have a way of getting stuck in your head this time.

‘Roots And Roads’ features an impressive list of guest musicians. And while some of them really put their mark on some of the tracks – Harel Shachal’s clarinet on the enchanting ‘Winter’ is mindblowing, while Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal yet again makes an appearance in the awesome ‘Palm Dance’ – it is Sassi himself who steals the show. If he’s not churning out powerful riffs and passionate leads, he’s rocking the bouzouki, saz, oud or chumbush like no one before or since. When those instruments appear, they usually carry the melody – ‘Root Out’ and opening track ‘Wings’ are the most obvious examples – which makes sense, given the pioneer status he has when it comes to incorporating Middle-Eastern elements in Rock music.

Another thing Sassi has done really well on this record is using many different vocal styles throughout the album. The line-up of his band has a male singer in himself and a powerful female singer in Sapir Fox, although the similarly-voiced Diana Golbi lays down the best performance on the record in ‘Root Out’. Myrath singer Zaher Zorgati, on the other hand, provides a strong contrast to Sassi’s voice with his Roy Khan meets Mats Levén performance on ‘The Religion Of Music’, marking his second appearance on a masterpiece in 2016.

If all that musical brilliance wasn’t enough, ‘Roots And Roads’ has a very pleasant flow due to a perfect sense of climaxes and light-and-shade workings. It’s the final polish on an album that is worth hearing by any music fan all over the globe, which seems fitting, given that it’s obviously Sassi’s mission to break down boundaries and letting the music speak for itself. The musicians are from different continents and so are the musical influences that can be heard throughout the album. And while any other musician would turn such a myriad of influences into an incoherent mess, you can leave it up to Yossi Sassi to make one of this year’s finest records out of it.

Recommended tracks: ‘Palm Dance’, ‘Winter’, ‘Root Out’


Album of the Week 07-2016: Myrath – Legacy

Probably the most impressed I have ever been by an opening act was when I went to see Orphaned Land in 2011. The second band of the evening was this amazing Tunisian band called Myrath and I basically liked them as much as I liked Orphaned Land. I bought ‘Desert Call’ and ‘Tales Of The Sands’ immediately and have loved the band ever since. It’s been four and a half years since the latter came out, but there finally is a worthy follow-up to that brilliant record. ‘Legacy’ – the English translation of their name – is a fantastic work of Orientally tinged Metal.

Style-wise, Myrath is located somewhere right in the middle of the grey area between Power Metal and progressive Metal, of which the respective border patrols are Kamelot and Symphony-X. What makes the band so unique though are the overtones of Ma’luf music. The beautiful Arabic string arrangements and – to a lesser extent – percussion are very much indebted to that form of traditional Tunisian music. And because ‘Legacy’ is highly melodic – even moreso than Myrath’s past efforts – there’s quite some room for those amazing string arrangements alongside the riffy Power/Prog and brilliant, larger than life choruses.

The increased melodicism doesn’t mean there’s no room for the heavy riff work normally associated with Progmetal; ‘The Unburnt’ and ‘The Needle’ could easily compete with any Prog giant -and win! – but Myrath obviously knows their strengths and makes sure they allow enough room for them. They know that their impeccable melodies don’t need a busy, claustrophobic bottom and when you have an unbelievable singer like Zaher Zorgati – who sounds like the Arabic cousin of Mats Levén and Roy Khan – you need to give him the freedom to excel. Each musician is extremely proficient at their instrument, they have just chosen to not let that get in the way of their amazing songwriting.

Opening track ‘Believer’ was the first track to surface and it represents the album quite well; it’s upbeat, the riffs and strings are in perfect balance and the chorus is huge and infectious. Typical for Myrath is the positive, hopeful vibe that most of the songs have. The powerful ‘Through Your Eyes’ and the delightfully dynamic ‘Get Your Freedom Back’ are perfect examples. Having said that, the latter half of the album does contain a few songs that have a darker vibe, the best of which are the moving ‘Duat’, the melancholic and passionate ‘Nobody’s Lives’ (with a beautiful chorus in Arabic) and the excellent bonus track ‘Other Side’.

While progressive Metal is stuck in a state where it isn’t all that progressive anymore – aping Dream Theater is not progressive – it’s always good to hear a band with a fresh take on the genre. I’ll admit: my weak spot for Arabic melodies does influence my opinion a little, but it’s a fact that Myrath consists of five amazing musicians who know how to write a great song. ‘Legacy’ is their third masterpiece – out of four, and debut album ‘Hope’ was quite good as well – and it should be heard by anyone. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be off to Zoetermeer to see them open for Symphony X tonight!

Recommended tracks: ‘Through Your Eyes’, ‘Get Your Freedom Back’, ‘Nobody’s Lives’, ‘Duat’