Release: May 3, 2019
''We dance to celebrate
Our history and fate''
Bringing the heat of the Tunisian desert to the metal scene, Myrath’s star is definitely rising higher and higher in the musical firmament. Started as a progressive metal band with some oriental influences in 2001, Myrath has been on an upward trajectory since the release of their debut album “Hope” in 2007. With the help of Adagio keyboard player Kevin Codfert, the band has released four more full length albums, played at ProgPower USA in 2013, headlined ProgPower Europe, and toured with such acts as Tarja Turunen, Dream Theater, and Symphony X. With the release of “Shehili” on May 3, via EarMusic, Myrath is truly coming into its own, by carving out a strongly defined niche on the metal scene.
Myrath has always been heavily influenced by folkloric Tunisian music but with “Shehili”, and arguably also with “Legacy” (2016), the band has expanded their sound by incorporating more and more oriental, specifically North African, elements into their music, thus creating a distinct genre of their own, which they call ‘blazing desert metal’.
Born to survive
You’ve lost yourself
Monster in my closet
No holding back
The album title itself was not randomly chosen as the word ‘shehili’ refers to the ‘hot blazing wind coming from the South’ so it all ties together. Though I am still partial to their 2011 effort “Tales of the Sands” I have to admit “Shehili” still hits home when it comes to musicianship and delivery and can rightfully be considered the pinnacle of their carrier (so far, I mean).
Though easy on the ears, the album has a very expansive and complex yet very organic sound to it, with many exotic-sounding parts and intricate instrumental passages. Having toned down their metal side a bit, there is more room for the traditional instruments like darbukas, clarinettes, nay, gasba or violins, which can be seen as integral to the band’s sonic identity, to be heard more clearly, giving the music a certain aura of fantasy and charm. And this blend of heavy guitars, Middle Eastern influences, uplifting melodies, and Arabic chants is by far the unique selling point of the album, and Myrath really put the beauty of Tunisian folklore music in the spotlight with this album, as the singles “Dance” and “No holding back” showcase so elegantly.
The intro “Asl” sets the mood of the entire album with pipes and Arabic chants, bleeding right into “Born to Survive” which makes it clear that Myrath is still a metal band at its core, though listening to such songs as “Mersal” or the title track “Shehili” you can hear the various influences that they have added to their sound. But honestly each one of the twelve songs on this album has a twist that engulfs the listener even more, be it the guitar riffs on the heavier cuts like “You’ve lost yourself”, “Wicked dice” or “Darkness arise” (which also has a great guitar solo) or the piano lines on “Lili Twil” or on the ballad “Stardust”, or the catchy chorus in “Monster in my closet” and “Dance”, or just the sheer beauty of the oriental flourishes throughout the music. It is this mix of styles that makes Myrath such an original and trailblazing band, and one of the most fascinating acts on the current metal scene. Zaher Zorgati’s vocals are as powerful and melodic as ever, guiding the listeners though such a fascinating soundscape, and I would say that “Lili Twil” is probably his best vocal work (apart from maybe “Apostrophe for a Legend”, a bonus track from “Tales of the Sands”), showcasing not only his vocal range and prowess but also his passion and emotional side. Malek Ben Arbia proves once again he is a master of the guitar giving the songs some edge and aggressiveness with his blazing riffs, while Anis Jouini’s bass parts add thickness and darkness to the sound. I particularly enjoy Elyes Bouchoucha’s lush keyboards that add so much extra melody and textures to the music, making it moodier and more nuanced.
All in all, “Shehili” has all the makings of a masterpiece – from the lyrics to the instrumentation, from the vocal melodies and chants to the folk elements and the overall atmosphere, everything works together to transport the listener in a world where they can fly on a magic carpet or can bellydance to the rhythm of the music. This is what happens when musicians think outside the box are not afraid of letting their heritage shine through in the music that they make, and “Shehili” is indeed a celebration of Tunisia’s history and musical legacy. Personal highlights: “You’ve lost yourself”, “Stardust”, and “Shehili”.
Rating: 10 / 10
Zaher Zorgati – vocals
Malek Ben Arbia – guitar
Anis Jouini – bass
Elyes Bouchoucha – keyboards, vocals
Morgan Berthet – drums