REVIEW: MEYTAL – “The Witness”
The saying goes that “everyone’s a critic”, and whilst that’s true in many aspects, it does require a certain level of articulation. Critic-tip right here: saying something is X, Y or Z won’t cut it, unless you can explain why X, Y, and Z is so. That will likely eliminate the majority of the thick-browed, knuckle-dragging keyboard warriors (yes, I’m using a keyboard, shut up), but where does that leave those with a touch more literary ability than that of a boorish Neanderthal?
It can be argued that there are three main states to be in as a critic (besides a drunken existential stupor): the material is good, the material is bad, or it’s somewhere in between. Now, within that greyed-out middle area is a bit of a spectrum: something that’s generally competent but largely ignorable, or something competent that you actually want to like more. This is where we find ourselves with Meytal’s second album, “The Witness”.
Whilst that last sentiment may be considered perplexingly harsh, let’s get to the explaining of X, Y and Z here. The album is a splendid balance of hard rock/metal delight, with virtually a checklist of the hallmarks one would expect for commercial radio-ready choons. Soaring melodies? Yep, “The Witness” has that in spades and then a bag of chips. Crunching riffs with some screams? You bet and you may very well be thanking whatever deity lights your life for the sort that is in “Divine Insurrection”. Fancy a balladesque song? It’s certainly no mistake with the likes of “Delusion”. A bit of rapping? Get yourself some “Alibis”. Or maybe you’re a fan of covers? Give the group’s ode to The Eagles with their take on “Hotel California”.
It’s all there, but one area that Meytal truly excel at is their use of melody. Bloody hell, are they able to weave catchy magic through their music – it’s like the common cold through an A&E ward. “Armalite”, with it’s big, boisterous chorus riffs, soars delectably overhead and begs for the voice of thousands calling back. At once, it cements its inclusion in any live set forever. Co-written by Clint Lowery of Sevendust, it’s just the sort of opening one would want for an album, and sets the stall out early doors for what the record will devolve into. Potentially one of the highlights of this is in “Broken Circus Ride”: a downbeat song with trickling melodic flourishes and a perfect sing-along refrain. It’s quite easy to imagine the sort of pain Daniel “Sahaj” Ticotin is in as he descends down the line: “you tried to touch me where it hurts”. Feel your pain there, lad.
So, with that all being said, what is it about “The Witness” that takes the sheen off? What’s the explanation? In all honesty, it’s that it feels rather staid. There’s no risk-taking – which is absolutely fine – but then there’s nothing that particularly leaps out to scream “this is us and you will remember!” The mark of a good song is memorability (something that readers may have previously encountered here). Can you hum the song back to yourself after a few hours, days, or weeks? Now place that song within an album or collection of songs? Does it stand out still?
That is not to say that there are no stand-out moments from Meytal here (the aforementioned songs are of-note). It’s a solid album throughout (the rather soulless “Hotel California” cover aside), and, in isolation, it begs to listen to more for the sheer joy of the music. But it’s really rather safe. It’s very much an album that would be heard buried on your favorite rock/metal radio station (or curated Spotify playlist, grandad). It rocks but does so like so many others.
Whilst it doesn’t push any boundaries for what makes metal so beloved, Meytal’s sophomore “The Witness” does hit the spot for perfectly-constructed radio metal. The band know what they’re about and have the craft and maturity to write what they know well. The musicianship is typically top-notch, whilst the riffs and melodies combine naturally to make for a balanced and coherent listen. If you don’t pick this up, expect it to be bothering the commercial airwaves in the months to come.