Sunday, 13 March 2016

Myrath's 'Legacy' - Album Review

Metal bands from Tunisia are quite a rarity, which is something that makes the progressive/power metal Myrath stand out instantly. Africa generally is not known for producing many quality metal acts, so to see one doing well for themselves is always great! While Myrath are not superstars in the metal world, they have been steadily increasing their reputation since their 2007 debut album Hope was released. The fusion of Western power metal sounds with Eastern music made Myrath stand out from the crowd of other power metal acts. Two more albums: 2010's Desert Call, which is the band's most progressive release; and 2011's Tales of the Sands, which pushed melodies and concise songwriting to the fore; followed, and the band managed to establish themselves quite nicely within the scene. Their unique sound certainly helped. The closest comparison can be drawn with the Israeli metal band Orphaned Land, but in reality the band's sounds are quite far apart. The Eastern focus on their respective music is where the similarities can be found however, and fans of the Israeli giants should enjoy Myrath also. Five years have passed since Tales of the Sands and, while the band have toured sporadically, on the whole things had been pretty quiet. This probably only served to slow the band's momentum, but last month the band's fourth album Legacy was released. The word 'Myrath' is an Anglicization of the Arabic word 'ميراث' which can be translated into 'heritage' or, more importantly 'legacy'. So, in some respects, Legacy is actually a self-titled album from Myrath! The band's core line-up returns from Tales of the Sands, as does producer Kevin Codfert (Adagio). The only new face is French drummer Morgan Berthet, although he has been playing with the band live since 2011 so is well-established within the band's ranks by this point. Sound wise, I would say that Legacy is a perfect mix of the two styles established on Desert Call and Tales of the Sands which shows how far the band have developed as songwriters in the meantime. Some of the songs on Legacy are the catchiest the band have ever done, but there are also some numbers that are more progressive and technical, and the two styles merge together well. Keyboardist Elyes Bouchoucha takes on the lion's share of the songwriting this time around, making this less of a band effort than previously. Codfert has also made significant songwriting contributions to the album, which may have helped the band to further develop their sound and style. Despite the fact that Bouchoucha and Codfert dominate the songwriting, the band all put in stellar performances. Frontman Zaher Zorgati stands out in particular, as he delivers a commanding vocal performance throughout.

A percussive intro Jasmin leads into Believer, the album's first single and one of the catchiest songs Myrath have ever penned. Bouchoucha's synth riff, along with the orchestral backing, instantly catch the attention with soaring, joyful melodies. The song's verses are much more straight forward, with a simple riff from guitarist Malek Ben Arbia which gives Zorgati plenty of space to unleash his gritty vocals. The orchestral arrangements throughout emphasize the band's Eastern heritage, while the chorus soars like an old Kamelot number. Ben Arbia's guitar solo is tasteful, and the delicate piano outro just rounds it off nicely. Get Your Freedom Back is a heavier, guitar-led song with an excellent metal riff that sounds like something from a modern Symphony X album. Berthet actually drives the verses, with some excellent off-kilter drumming that creates an interesting atmosphere. He is looser than your average metal drummer, which fits well within the Eastern melodies. Zorgati's direct approach on the chorus gives the song real power, and bassist Anis Jouini leads a progressive instrumental section following the first chorus. The song is quite short, but a lot of music is packed in. It has quite an anthemic quality due to the simple chorus, and will no doubt become a live staple. Nobody's Lives is more of a mid-paced, crunchy rocker that is again led by a fluid synth motif. The melodies are more understated here, and Zorgati's accent and distinct vocal style really helps to anchor that Eastern vibe. The verses are quite heavy, with crushing staccato guitar chords, but the chorus is more flowing, with subtle choral and orchestral sounds to enhance the mood. An atmospheric mid-section, sung in Arabic, which then leads into an explosive guitar solo makes the song stand out as one of the album's more mature and creative offerings. The Symphony X vibe (the band are big fans, as they covered their songs in their early days when they were called Xtazy) continues with The Needle's driving guitar riff and explosive drumming. The Eastern elements are toned down quite a bit in this song, letting the Western prog/power metal sounds shine through the greatest, with plenty of emphasis on Ben Arbia's guitar riffs and Bouchoucha's counter-melodies on the piano. This is another strong song, and the mid-song instrumental section proves this. A melodic guitar solo moves into a keyboard-led section that oozes class. Zorgati even hits some impressive high notes during some screams in the final chorus! Through Your Eyes is a slightly strange-sounding song, but it seems to work! The verses are very down-beat. For some reason, the piano and vocal combination reminds me of Extreme's When I First Kissed You (do not ask me why..), but the explosive intro and chorus sections are classic Myrath! The Extreme comparison is absent from future verses, as they are more rocky after the first chorus, but I still cannot get it out of my head! It is still a good song though, and ensures the quality of this album remains high.

The Unburnt, about George R. R. Martin's character Daenerys Targaryen, pushes the Eastern vibes back to the fore again. The dancing string melodies that sit over the song's main riff are extremely melodic, and the use of different percussion sounds throughout, no matter how subtly, help to make the song stand out. It is a pretty relentless song, and the pace rarely lets up throughout. Zorgati's owns the chorus, with a commanding vocal display that makes use of some excellent high notes and wordless vocal sections. I Want to Die is probably the album's weakest song, and it fails to live up the high standard set by the other material on the album. It is the closest song to a ballad on the album. The piano-led verses are quite nice, but when the rest of the band comes in it feels a little laboured, despite some interesting drumming. For whatever reason, this song just does not do anything for me, but it is the only song on Legacy that I would rate as anything less than 'good', so that is pretty good going really! Duat gets the album back on track, and showcases the more progressive end of the band's songwriting. It starts slowly, and builds up around a keyboard riff that sounds like it comes from the Dream Theater canon, before exploding into an orchestral feast, with varying drum rhythms and a complex guitar pattern. The chorus is real winner too, with a lavish production job and layers upon layers of soaring orchestrations. It is one of those songs that displays it's qualities over numerous listens, as all the intricacies reveal themselves. It ends up being one of the album's best songs however, and showcases the band as master songwriters and arrangers. Endure the Silence opens with a rather jaunty piano line, before another Eastern synth/orchestral combination takes over. The verses are very bass-heavy, with a lot of bottom end as Ben Arbia's guitar grinds over the basslines. This is quite a moody song generally too, with a dense chorus and big, booming drums throughout. The melodies are very addictive though, and this was one of the songs that impressed me from the off. Lots of the songs here are growers, which showcases the band's growing maturity, but this one struck me right away. Closing the album we have Storm of Lies which has a snaking, groove-based guitar riff that fits really well alongside the synths. Zorgati's verse vocals are quite quiet, but he explodes during the soaring chorus. It is a very simple song, but the catchy and memorable nature of it makes it perfect for an album closer. Ben Arbia impressed throughout. Firstly with this groovy riffing, but secondly with a strange guitar solo that seems tame at first, but soon turns into a serious shred-fest. Some versions of Legacy also include the bonus track Other Side. Overall though, Legacy is easily Myrath's best work yet. The band have really come into their own here, and this is the consummation of everything the band have experimented with on their past three albums. I hope this album will reach many new fans, as they deserve much greater recognition.

The album was released on 12th February 2016 via Nightmare Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Believer.

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