Friday, August 27, 2010

Melechesh - Sphynx

My anus hath been shredded!

Melechesh came as a total surprise to me. I first heard the name in a discussion about Orphaned Land when somebody mentioned that Melechesh does this Middle Eastern metal thing a whole hell of a lot better than Orphaned Land. I'm not a huge fan of OL, so I always kind of brushed the band aside. Let me assure you, the Middle Eastern influences here are subtle, tasteful, and nowhere near as overt and tacked on as the stuff on Mabool.

Where other bands show ethnic influences by chucking in a slew of random ass twangy instruments, Melechesh plays the old school way.... guitar, bass, drums, and attitude. They essentially strip metal down to its core and add a touch of their own special flair. The music actually sounds like authentic middle eastern metal anthems, which is something I never thought I'd say. The best way to sum up Sphynx's sound is "damn near perfect". It's hard to explain, but Melechesh essentially did everything right. No matter what style they are attempting, no matter how they approach the song, they fucking nail it. This is especially astounding when the album is this diverse. There are songs like Of Mercury and Mercury with a ripping solo and more riffs than there are hair follicles on my ass, and then there are songs like Triangular Tattvic Fire that literally have two or three riffs throughout the four and a half minute duration, but nothing ever gets old! Just listen, even the last two minutes of Annunaki's Golden Thrones are groovy chugging chords that are ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! All bands looking to inject a groove element into their music, look no further than here, it is essentially the most perfect way to do as such. Whatever magic they possess, I want a piece of it, right now.

Vocally, I'm willing to go gay for this man. Ashmedi's voice fits wonderfully with whatever unholy blend of black/death/thrash metal they've got going on here. Drummer Proscriptor writes some excellent Sumerian/Babylonian themed lyrics to go along as well. All of the instrumentalists do their job wonderfully, nobody stands out, but that's a good thing here as it helps bring the band together into one cohesive whole. I think copious standout leads or bass runs might actually tarnish the magic on the record. Don't get me wrong, there are segments like the aforementioned solo on Of Mercury and Mercury and an interesting bass break in Incendium Between Mirage and Time, but it isn't like every song gets a two minute wanking session in the middle. Everything just comes together perfectly. Sphynx is a towering monolith in the year 2003, maybe even snagging the coveted top spot.

That said, the album is not without it's faults, however few and far between they are. The ambient interlude, The Arrival Ritual, is good, but it hardly progresses at all throughout the whole six minutes it plays. It essentially rides on the same melody the whole time and goes nowhere in the end. Melechesh seems to have a bad habit of doing that, as the same thing happens on the next album, Emissaries, but that's for another review. While it's no Karl Sanders quality of interesting and non-boring ambient chill-outiness, it's still good. The instrumental closer, Caravans to Ur, is one of the songs with very few riffs, again riding on a nice groove the whole time. This time, it doesn't get old considering the song is really only about three minutes and it actually switches itself up every now and again. So why is it mentioned in the area of the review where I complain? Because it falls victim to that goddamn silence bullshit. Nothing is more frustrating than sitting through eight minutes of silence waiting for some worthless ambient malarkey that doesn't add a goddamn thing to the record. If this wasn't the last track, I would've just destroyed this and forgot about all of the greatness in a blind rage.

Thankfully, it is indeed the last track, and one can just ignore/skip over it and then all is right with the world. In all, I'm not exactly sure how to classify this album. There are black metal overtones in some of the riffs and drums, but the same can be said with death metal or traditional metal. It's got pretty much the best of every metal world. As I put it, Sphynx rocks like the fucking stone age. And as our very own Kruel put it, it's as metal as the iron age. See that? Melechesh can even transcend through history and kick your ass. Show me somebody else who could! In the end, highly, highly recommended. Very few bands have been able to blow me away as hard as this has upon first listen and then subsequently stay amazing for an extended period of time. Buy or die.

RATING - 96%

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