MYRATH – Shehili

“You have to hear Myrath!” Those words came from the mouth of my brother’s wife one evening of chilling out, devouring unhealthy snacks washed down with just as unhealthy beverages while having a movie-night at our place. I had never heard of the band so movie-night turned into YouTube night for like half an hour or so. Video after video by Myrath was played and I was completely floored. The next day I googled the band because I knew I had to get me something by them but I didn’t know where to start. I found out that Myrath had released five studio albums (six if you count the new one) albeit the 2005 debut Double Face was released under the X-Tazy moniker. I decided a compilation album would do the trick for starters so a copy of the double compilation album Merciless Times (2018) was ordered. And boy, was this band great or what? Hot damn!

Myrath hails from Tunisia and musically their kind of Metal is drawn into the more progressive side but they’re never short of hooks and infectious melodies but what makes them stand out from many Progressive Metal bands is that they’re proud of their origins, something they show by bringing in Tunisian folk and other Arabian influences into their music. Despite the members – Zaher Zorgati (vocals), Malek Ben Arbia (guitars), Anis Jouini (bass), Morgan Berthet (drums) and Elyes Bouchoucha (keyboards) – being phenomenal world-class musicians, they always put the songs first – big choruses, catchy melodies, slick arrangements and hooks enough to sell. Writing this, it’s one day before I leave for Sweden Rock Festival and boy do I look forward to watching this band there! Now, off to the new record. Yours truly is ready to be blown away once more. Hopefully.

The album opens with an atmospheric intro that holds some oriental chanting, called “Asl”, a song that takes us straight into “Born To Survive”, a groovy, punchy and upbeat Hard Rock belter that brings on both a slight Metal vibe but also a symphonic twist that brings along influences that shows their eastern roots. Without going Pop or adding sugar, the refrain is brilliant with a caravan of hooks. “You’ve Lost Yourself” brings on a thunderous, bouncy rhythm and metal-fueled guitar riffing that’s heavy, punchy and dark. The tune lies on the progressive side and both Ayreon and Symphony X enters my mind but their oriental progressions and melodies brings along the Myrath identity. The chorus is grand and catchy and holds a gorgeous arrangement. Great. Leading single “Dance” holds a big, fat groove, is rhythmic and hard-hitting but also very melodic and memorable with an eastern-flavoured refrain so catchy it hurts. An amazing tune that deserves to be a hit.

Punchy, in-your-face and straight-forward on the threshold between Metal and Hard Rock, “Wicked Dice” is here to kick ass. Style-wise the tune takes a stroll down the road of more modern Metal twists and the instant catchiness of its chorus could make this tune a rock-radio hit. Even though I’m not too hot for the more modern kind of Metal, this tune still gets under my skin and wins me over. Very good. With some heavily tuned down guitars, “Monster In My Closet” almost feels like it’s sniffing around nu-metal corners but with brilliantly memorable melodies, oriental influences and a refrain that takes a hold of your brain immediately, the tune strikes with more catchiness than super-glue. Very good. “Lili Twil” is apparently a cover of sorts, originally done by Moroccan group Les Fréres Mégri. It’s a slow, ballad-like track that starts with acoustic guitars but becomes heavier and bouncier on a steady rhythm. The Arab pop vibes marries fine with the Metal and the instant melodies turns the song into something very memorable and affable. Great!

Latest single “No Holding Back” is uptempo and straight-forward but its verses are more laid-back. It’s big on keyboards as well which brings on a symphonic vibe and holds a refrain that’s very pop-laden and to me, this is quite obvious single-material. But that doesn’t mean that the tune is predictable or mawkish – quite the contrary, it’s a song that holds the Myrath sound. A great song with a whole lot of hit-potential. Slower in pace, “Stardust” is on the ballad side, based on piano and lots of keyboards but it’s also dark and quite heavy, so no cheese here. It’s a powerful and moving track and it grabbed me right from go. Very good. The mid-paced “Mersal” mixes Arabian lyrics, courtesy of guest singer Lotfi Bouchnak, with English dito – a dynamic stroke of genius. It’s dark, edgy and rhythmic with a punch and an almost solemn atmosphere. It’s also catchy as hell. A killer tune!

In a progressive way, “Darkness Arise” brings on the Metal with both aggression and a comprehensive fervour. At first, the tune comes across as an oriental flavored Symphony X – ballsy, heavy and kicking – but after a couple of more spins the Symphony X influence feels more and more distant even though traces till remains.  A somewhat retro organ sound reminiscent of guys like Jon Lord and Don Airey brings up the dynamics complete with a mellotron solo. Awesome stuff. The album closes with the title track – an epic, pompous and bombastic number with a dark and at times even ominous ambience. It holds an immense yet sombre arrangement with a vigour that’s captivating and even though it’s a powerful and quite punchy song, it still relies on big melodies and the refrain strikes exactly where it should amazingly well. Pure brilliance.

The fact that Myrath stays true to their roots and ever so often bring in a big chunk of their folk-music makes their Hard Rock meets Metal stand out and even though they write very catchy songs, there’s nothing perfunctory or indifferent with this band what so ever – sound and identity are all their own and to me, Myrath sounds like no one else. Song-wise, the quality is stupendously high, something that after listening through said compilation-album doesn’t surprise me one bit. Same with the musicianship – these guys are all world-class musicians with Zorgathi at the front with a great, personal sounding voice and a wide register. As I haven’t heard the rest of Myrath’s albums back to back, I really can’t compare them but to me, this album is close to a masterpiece where I can’t find one song that’s even remotely close to being bad. If you miss out on this album, it’s your loss!

9/10

Tracklist:

1. Asl (intro)
2. Born To Survive
3. You’ve Lost Yourself
4. Dance
5. Wicked Dice
6. Monster In My Closet
7. Lili Twil
8. No Holding Back
9. Stardust
10. Mersal
11. Darkness Arise
12. Shehili

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