REVIEW: MYRATH – “Shehili”
It’s not fun anymore to say “holy f*%, look at this obscure prog/power band that came out of Tunisia from all places! They’re awesome”, because well, Myrath is now a well-known act and have a shiny new deal with EarMUSIC, so everyone at least heard of them by now. For those who haven’t, think of Orphaned Land-meets-Circus Maximus with a Northern African folk vibe, and you’ll know exactly what to expect from the band and ‘Shehili’, their fifth full-length album.
This time around, though, the Ez-Zahra natives try to blend even more of their native colors, sounds and atmosphere into the prog-oriented power metal already characteristic to them – approach that was already very prominent in the good ‘Legacy’ (2016). Similarly, the band takes the poppy, cheesy vibe seen in their last entry to a whole new level, making me doubt more times than not while listening to this if my music player had changed from the good ol’ metal to a Eurovision best-of Ajerbaizan video. Nevertheless, the product here is an interesting one.
These pop-ish, TV show moments are – and forgive me Odin, Quorthon, Mark Shelton and all the metal gods – actually what makes this album so catchy and…oh god, fun (Chuck Schuldiner slaps me in the face for my insubordination). The initial “Born to Survive”, for instance, illustrates this quite well by mixing the already tried-and-true prog/power formula with this folky, poppy envision of Tunisian music. However, the song borrows much from Myrath’s past glories such as “Merciless Times” and “Forever and a Day”.
“You’ve Lost Yourself” follows the same path and features some of the best riffs in the record. The sexy atmosphere intertwines with the somber, burdened vocal lines by Zaher Zorgati (aka Prince from the Prince of Persia franchise) and forms a heavy, dark tune worthy of being featured side by side with the likes of ‘Desert Call’ (2010) and ‘Tales of the Sands’ (2011).
It’s not until “Dance” that they go full bonkers in terms of shamelessly abandoning heaviness in favor of catchiness and sugary singalong magnitude. I dare you not to move your head while listening to this, as it rivals pompous, radio-friendly metal that only the likes of current Avantasia or Battle Beast are used to do. Unlike those two, though, “Dance” doesn’t make me want to kill myself when listening to it.
“Wicked Dice” and “Monster in My Closet” take down a few notches of cheesiness and bet once again in more mixed parts between accessible and progressive, especially in the keyboard and bass lines, which sound more prolific. The modern guitar tuning also does a good job of turning things to a more potent side.
Myrath continues playing with the main elements of their choice from here on, but there are moments that even alien ingredients such as AOR come in place, like in the decent “Lili Twil”. Nevertheless, the main course is still the symphonic, epic atmosphere, and tracks like “No Holding Back” do this job wonderfully. One of the best songs here, it could easily serve as an epitome of what Myrath means today with their consolidated sound.
The final portion of the album doesn’t quite match the quality of the first one, mainly because the band inexplicably leaves out much of the punch and power aside and bet on melodic, emotional songs. “Stardust” and “Mersal”, for example, have nice parts but seem to be missing something, while “Darkness Arise” relies too much on modernity for its own sake. The title track closes the effort and is the most different song here, being heavily constructed to favor the Arabian orchestrated atmosphere, so there’s not much here in terms of metal.
It seems to me that Myrath is at its strongest moment regarding songwriting and instrumentality. ‘Shehili’ is smooth, well-produced and well-written, besides being a ton of fun to listen to. It’s a step back when compared to ‘Legacy’, true, and definitely different than what pleases me as a prog/power act – which are their first three albums, but all in all, if you like your metal driven, majestic and catchy, this will definitely fits your taste, as Myrath does this better than most out there. Recommended.