By DJ Monk
I think it is more than safe to say that heavy metal is, indeed, a truly universal language. In the 50 years since it first crawled from the mucky back alleys of Birmingham, it has extended its tentacles to every corner of this dirty little planet from Earth, arguably reaching out further than any other genre you could care to name, from the remote icy wastelands of the likes of Siberia and the Faroe Islands to the forbidding mountains of war-torn states such as Afghanistan and Iraq to the sub-Sahara, from where have emerged another metallic force with which to be reckoned in the shape of the mighty Myrath and this, their sixth studio album.
The Tunisian tunesmiths will already be familiar to regular UR readers, as the album’s second single, ‘No Holding Back’, was our Video Of The Week back at the beginning of March, and follow-up ‘Born To Survive’ featuring in our Singles Club just this past weekend. My colleague DJ Astrocreep also conducted an in-depth interview with band mastermind Zaher Zorgati at the beginning of last month, in which he gave us lots of valuable insights into the origins of the band and the concept/storyline behind ‘Shehili’.
With Myrath taking great lengths to pay homage to their Tunisian heritage by including many elements of African and Arabic culture into their instrumentation, lyrics and overall musical miens, it would be easy to pigeonhole them alongside the likes of Melechesh, who have been ploughing a similar path, albeit more successfully in terms of international appeal, for roughly a similar amount of time. However, Myrath are not mere copycats, following in the footsteps of another act who have broken the ground in terms of making western audiences, in particular, more receptive to this sort of cross-pollination: in fact, us metallians are a lot cleverer than that, and would see through such a ploy in less time than it takes to hit the skip button on the ÜRHQ death decks.
No, what Myrath have produced is a heady and intoxicating brew, combining the exoticism of their roots with the sort of grunting, grim-encrusted metal grooves that make the music the love so special. With ‘Asl’ having us called us to pray and kneel before the altar at the Tabernacle Of heavy Metal (and that’s a real church, believe me – it’s where DQ and I got married!), Zorgati and his cohorts – guitarist Malek Ben Arbia, bassist Anis Jouini, drummer Morgan Berthet and keyboard wiz Elyes Bouchoucha – waste no time in laying down a full blown aural assault, sneaking up behind you like an assassin and grabbing your attention before you even know you’re already paying it.
Big, crunching grooves lead into massive melodies and earworm choruses that play with every sense in your body: like those assassins, they have you looking over your shoulder, wondering where the next surprise is coming from, as the songs twist, turn and coil around you like a Nubian cobra, wrapping you in their warm embrace before injecting you with the venom of a carefully timed solo or a sublime hook that just forces you to tap your feet and nod along.
‘Shehili’ is a massive album, epic on every level, from the lyrical themes to the pinpoint production to the individual, and collective, performances. It is a work of beauty, elegantly crafted, instantly accessible yet at the same time thought-provoking, forcing you to constantly revisit it and discover more and more about its contents. A stunning, sublime work which will definitely be near the top of my albums of the year list.
- ‘Shehili’ is released today (Friday 3 May). You can get your copy HERE.
- Myrath play Sweden Rocks on Saturday 8 June and Wacken on Friday 2 August.
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