I can only imagine the decision to include one’s traditional and ethnic instrumentation and musicalities into their metal music compositions is a difficult choice to make. Firstly, the time and effort invested in recording a metal album itself is certainly financially strenuous and rather time-consuming, yet if you add the elements of non-conventional instrumentation, the recording process gets far more complex. As I’ve discovered groups such as Orphaned Land or Tengger Cavalry who incorporate Eastern instrumentation and melodic structures into their metal, I try to keep this in mind. The fact that these acts are able to successfully blend the instruments and melody patterns from both the Western and Eastern hemispheres is not only technically impressive, but also beautiful on a cultural level where it signifies unity through art. With the potential to create such a significant impact in finding harmony between two different musical styles and worlds, I believe the difficulty in adding one’s traditional and ethnic musicalities into their own metal music is both extremely commendable and a worthy risk.
One of the more recent bands to catch my attention in this vein would be Myrath, who reign from the Republic of Tunisia, a country located in the Maghreb region of North Africa. The group has several LPs under their belt, but I have a hunch it will be Shehili that will break them further into the limelight. Released through earMusic, this album includes the work from three separate producers including Kevin Codfert, Eike Freese, and Jens Bogren. From a metal music perspective, Myrath most definitely pulls influence from classic prog artists like Symphony X or Dream Theater, yet it is the inclusion of their folk music fusion that truly allows the music to shine.
When I first heard the band, it was the single “No Holding Back” that truly hooked me. The larger than life string arrangement lifted me to the sky before I was serenaded by Zaher Zorgati’s wide vocal range and a driving percussion beat. Although, the aforementioned proggy comparisons can definitely be made regarding to the vocal melodies and some of the guitar riffs, all the other elements showcased reveal a far more interesting and unique identity. Other pre-release singles “Dance” and “Born to Survive” prop up this idea in that there is a solid classic prog metal foundation infused with eye-catching folk music flair.
Although I was pretty already sold on the album with the pre-release singles, delving into the full album allowed an even greater appreciation with contextualization. Opening track “Asl” is a brief piece flaunting the band’s traditional woodwind instrumentation and melismatic vocal delivery through a call and response style, which sets the folksy prog mood. If you’re a fan of this sound, songs like “Lili Twil,” “Mersal,” and the title track stay true to the folk metal style with a very impactful effect. Upon initial listen, these tracks sounded quite reminiscent to Orphaned Land‘s most recent album, considering they both use Eastern instrumentation to fluff up their melodic prog.
Alternatively, Myrath hit a heavier stride on “Wicked Dice” and “Monster in my Closet,” complete with pounding guitar riffs and drum hits. And although the material on Shehili tends to lean either towards the folk side or the heavy side of the spectrum, it is never exclusively; all of the compositions nonetheless carry characteristics that successfully intertwine both elements very naturally. “You’ve Lost Yourself” being a prime example of this meeting between heaviness and folksy traits with unbelievable soaring vocals and a memorable breakdown at the three and a half minute mark followed by a guitar solo.
In conclusion, Myrath has created a diverse and rich album that has had me hooked since I first gave this album a listen. As I previously stated, Shehili feels rather comparable to Orphaned Land‘s Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs, but Myrath takes a more power metal stylistic approach rather than taking the heavy or death metal path. Overall, the most compelling aspect to this LP is how these songs are loaded with such lush and intricate instrumentation, yet the band never cease to create compelling vocal and musical hooks. Tracks like “Darkness Arise,” “Dance,” and “No Holding Back” will certainly be stuck in your head.