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Metal’s Middle-Eastern Panthers

8 March 2011

Melecheshtheepigenesis3_thumb2_thumbI’m tired of using macho adjectives to describe the efforts of metal bands.  Especially if they unfairly tar different styles with the same brush.  So let’s see how far we can get without the testosterone … Melechesh are an Israeli band that like to describe their metal as “Mesopotamian”, thus placing themselves in a position that precedes the whole Hebrew/Arabic split of today.  I like that, and it shines through in their music.  Other Middle Eastern metal outfits have also gone this route, most famously Myrath in Tunisia and Orphaned Land, also in Israel.  Considering that a lot of metal nowadays has gone “pagan”, i.e. pre-whatever monotheistic religion is currently top of the heap in your country, it was only a matter of time for this kind of thing to flower in the Middle East.  It is refreshing and totally in keeping with metal’s love of all things savage.  (“Savage” is a little macho, I know … but the word is also ironic, since the “there-is-only-one-God” religions are probably responsible for more bloodletting than all the Viking marauders, Aztec ritual sacrificers and desert idol worshipers put together.) 

But to get to the music: Melechesh have followed a pretty black metal path up to now, their Middle Eastern influences notwithstanding.  It is only with their latest album, The Epigenesis (2010), where I feel they have fused their metal and traditional influences seamlessly.  A few tracks in fact only use Middle-Eastern instruments such as the Yayli Tanbur, Tar, Sitar, and Santur, yet they are integral to the rest of the album. Overall The Epigenesis has the desolation and rasp-throated virulence typical of black metal, and the execution is excellent.  But this album aims higher, and the fusion of harsh black metal with their region’s ancient music is so masterful that one can only regard their latest work as the beginning of a new chapter for Melechesh.

It makes no difference if a few tracks (“When Halos and Candles Collide” or “A Greater Chain of Being”) are quiet and minimalistic — each track is a prehistoric panther; on the slower tracks the cat is merely in repose.  Melechesh produce several variations between these extremes of churning violence and atmospheric stillness – and seeing, or hearing the animal from so many perspectives simply ensures that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

And The Epigenesis is truly great.

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PS – Savage, bloodletting, panther, masterful, churning – nope. The Macho will not be denied.

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