Arabian sounds blended in with powerful metal riffs create a mesmirising journey.
Occasionally one hears an album that surprises for its sheer innovation. Myrath's "Tales of the Sands" was an immediate love affair for this reviewer. The music is absolutely stunning in it's originality and sleek powerful arrangements. There are truckloads of distorted metal riffs to divulge in, but the real drawcard is the way the band integrate Arabian/Tunisian melodies and instruments into the mix creating a sound that is unique and compelling. Right from the start on Under Siege, there is no mistaking the fact the band are staying close and true to the style of their country, and not only is this commendable, it is refreshing as this makes the band stand out among the plethora of other metal acts rising up. The female vocals are present on some tracks and overall the vocals are well performed, clean and powerfully delivered. The music is very listenable and quite complex utilising killer riffs and crunching time sig shapes using full blown metal blasts. There are fast tempo sections, blazing guitars, hammering drums and frenetic keyboards all balanced with strong melodic metal.
Braving the Seas is a fine example of the style of the band. The time sig shifts are terrific and the pace varies throughout. Zaher Zorgatti is an excellent vocalist, perhaps as good as any metal vocalist I have heard over recent years. He sings in English making this very accessible yet the style remains as oriental as anything you will hear from Tunisia. There is an Arabian feel throughout the album and this is noticeable especially on Merciless Times. The melody is infectious, particularly the fractured guitar riffs and wonderful keyboards by Elyes Bouchoucha that sound like Arabian violins.
On the title track Tales of the Sands the Tunisian flair is even more prominent and the massive bassline by Anis Jouini is powerful. The female vocals soar across all the metal rhythms, and it actually captures a Middle Eastern atmosphere. The keyboards match the distorted riffs and there is a divine lead break with some fret melting speed work from Malek Ben Arbia. It ends with an acoustic outro culminating in an amazing track that I could listen to numerous times and never tire of.
Oriental violin sounds begin Sour Sigh that are joined by devastating riffs and the accomplished vocals of Zaher Zorgatti. It builds in an intense chorus and some heart pounding rhythms. The riff at 3:38 is mesmirising and the lead break is sensational, serving to lift the track to another level. It reminds me of Dream Theater or Symphony X at times; dynamic metal with incredible vocals.
Dawn Within is a heavier track at first that settles into a moderate feel in the verses. There are fast paced passages balanced with melodic metal. At 2:03 minutes in it locks into a choppy riff and then is followed by the insane lead work of Malek Ben Arbia. The drum patterns of Saif Ouhibi are intense and expertly performed.
Wide Shut is one of my favourite tracks with strong Arabian keyboard violin sounds and guitar riffing. The complex time shifts on this are quite astounding. I recommend this track to all those who want to try the band for themselves. It encompasses all that makes this album great and unique. The lead break is dynamite with high squeals and frenetic speed, and there is a fabulous keyboard motif that the guitars riff along with. It even has a quiet section that showcases the gentler vocal expertise of Zorgatti.
Requiem for a Goodbye follows another dynamic synth line and Metallica like riffing, and a crunching hammer of guitar chords leading to a melodic chorus. The double kick drumming of Ouhibi are relentless. I particularly like the way the keyboard violins balance off all the distortion. Once again the lead break is scorching, super fast speed picking and sweeps, traded off with keyboard flourishes, similar to how Dream Theater take turns in the lengthy instrumental breaks. The whole thing soon settles down into a minimalist piano but it is temporary as the heavy guitars soon drive the track to its conclusion.
Beyond the Stars is another of the more Arabian sounding tracks with a violin sounding break towards the end and some warbling Arab style vocals throughout. It is a powerful mix and certainly is a part of this distinctive sound, blending perfectly and without pretentiousness. It is one of the reasons I rate this album so highly; it is unlike anything I have heard in prog metal and the band are so damned good at their craft it is amazing.
Time to Grow concludes the album with a forceful melody driven track that features a fast keyboard motif and lengthy instrumental lead break. This track sounds least Arabian but is short and the power metal riffs make a satisfying conclusion. The bonus track that is available is Apostrophe for a Legend, and it is not too bad though not as good as other tracks, sounding more AOR, though I like the melody.
In conclusion, I gained an enormous amount of enjoyment from this album, in particular the standout tracks are the title track, Under Siege, Braving the Seas, Sour Sigh, Wide Shut, Beyond the Stars and Requiem for a Goodbye. Overall the album can be recommended to Dream Theater, Symphony X, Kamelot or Riverside addicts. It is hard to find fault with it, as it just delivers from track to track; all killer and no filler. Metal heads will love this as will the prog fanatic into a heavier sound. It is certainly one of the most refreshing unique prog metal albums of recent times. I am going the full 5 stars for this; I was completely mesmirised from beginning to end.