Saturday, March 28, 2015

Melechesh - Enki [2015]

Ex-Israel black/thrash pundits Melechesh have managed to create some of the more unique recordings of the 21st century with records like ''Emissaries'' and ''Sphynx'' which sought the desert for a predominantly oriental sound with flavors of occult mysticism and panoplies of preposterously busy guitars, ultimately boiling down to their so-called 'Sumerian Metal': the larger part of the metal community is bound to either gravel a heap full of praise on the enormity of the music, or just simply refer to them whenever the concepts of heavy metal and the Middle-East intertwine. Yet  so much more than simply cramming your head with Middle-Eastern folksiness just for the whole 'Sumerian' effect, these desert roamers make their oblique preferences form an integral part of the ferocious black thrashing frenzy which has always been their main premise... With ''Enki'' the Sumerians conjured another incantatory experience that comes close to the band's peak around the mid-2000's, but unlike the more divisive attitude of those records, it plays out a little closer to the belt.

One of the two philosophies that comprise this album is the image of hookah smoke drizzling slowly into hazy Eastern sky with richly textured ottomans, keffiyehs and Turkish rugs galore, with oriental dancers moving softly, seductively across the sand to tunes of ouds and piping flutes... the other one is an unabashed parade of gigantic riffs thrashing on a ground of uncircumcised black metal, with masterful grooves conducted as effortlessly as spreading wildfire. ''Enki'' is the sort of record which, like its forebears, retains a relatively primal splendor through the manifestation of bands like Absu, Watain, Impaled Nazarene, and even some traditional Swedish black metal (although the clinical force of this record in huge compared to the likes of Arckanum) and of course there is the folk metal texture akin to Orphaned Land and even Austria' masterful Hollenthon. At any rate, Melechesh is providing us with a suitably more atmospheric detachment from Nile's Egyptian brutal death metal hypnosis, and there's certainly nothing that fails to stagger with the percussive power of this album. Ashmedi and his henchmen have more than enough riffs stocked underneath their shoals, be it grooving Arabic death/thrash rhythms, some more technically wrought pieces or straightforward black metal tremolos penned and played with uncanny precision; this is a record which doesn't shy away from pounding the listener with obtuse riffing for a moment (except on the bizarrely folksy ''Doorways to Irkala''). There are traces of death metal here and there, like the chugging mania of ''Multiple Truths'' which remind of some riff borrowed from a Polish death metal outfit but ''Enki'' remains loyal to its blackened thrash roots throughout the majority of the run time, like myriad knives and daggers concealed under the band members' cloaks, ready to be flung.

For a record of its brutality, the figments of melody served in ''Enki'' certainly make one desirous for more, especially like those on ''The Pendulum Speaks'', one of the best which the album has to offer, or the more swerving and pungent innuendos on ''Lost Tribes'', and swaying rhythms portrays a balance between chords and singular notes which make up for perfect devilish arabesques. The drumming and crisp production levels ensure that none of the riffs go amiss, and as long as they have sufficient variation, most of them are memorable enough to elude becoming undone in a pallid sandstorm. Ashmedi's vocals, upfront and granular as ever, emerge as the epitome of what I would hesitantly dub as 'black/thrash' vocals, raw unflinching, yet vigorous enough to appeal to aficionados of both ends of string, so you really can't go wrong with it. In the end, all told, ''Enki'' gives way to 2-3 humdingers in terms of sheer songwriting excellence, and imprints itself into the listener's mind more effectively than other bands who would continue to make new records without challenging the norms of their previous outings, and so while it's true that this is an album that suffers from creative drought, it still kicks ass, it doesn't the keep the band tied to the ground. Of the levels of musical conformity challenged with mystifying, somber choral reverberations the endless philippic slew of riffs, I am a fan. Not to mention the 8-minute oriental instrumental ''Doorways To Irkala'' which is one of the most well-crafted Middle-Eastern pieces I've heard from any artist, a haunting desert swansong to accompany desolate Bedouins and their laden camels... Sometimes the songs dragged for too long, and this may not be the best they have to offer as a whole, but it's clearly one of the finer efforts I've heard thus far from 2015, and one that'll stay with me for a good while. The Mespotamian lyric goodness is just the cherry on top.

Metatron and Man
The Pendulum Speaks
Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged

Rating: 82%

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