Sunday, March 6, 2016

Album Review: Myrath - Legacy

Given the proliferation of metal bands, everyone needs to have a gimmick of some sort in order to stand out from the crowd, or so it seems. That's how we end up with bands dedicated to telling the history of Vikings, or of World War II, or in the worst of them all, a group of white guys from the United States lecturing everyone on ancient Egyptian lore. But, while most of the gimmick sounding bands don't actually have anything to do with the subjects they pick, there are actual bands who hail from places and cultures that make them unique by simple virtue of who they are. Myrath is one of those, a nominally progressive metal band that uses their Tunisian heritage to give a new feeling to their brand of prog metal, one that far exceeds the pandering done by the rest.

We get to hear it right away in "Believer", the first proper song on the album. It opens with a jaunty rhythm, but the main orchestral melody is played with some unusual intervals that sound completely original in this context. We're so ingrained by the standard notes guitars are capable that we can forget cultures have used instruments that play in the negative space. Myrath does that with the outside elements throughout this record, which can be a bit jarring, but more often makes you perk your head up and note that what they're doing is actually progressive; they're challenging the boundaries of 'normal' metal.

They also manage to do something that very little metal can anymore; be uplifting. There's a sense of optimism to the melodies running through these songs that drips of positivity, that makes the songs engaging and fun. Metal is so dark so often that it's refreshing to hear a record that doesn't mind letting in some light. When you get sections like the slapping breakdown in "Get Your Freedom Back", or the djent riffs in "Nobody's Lives", the expectation from everything we've ever heard is that the songs will get sucked down into a mire of faux-emo misery, but Myrath doesn't let that happen. Instead, the songs make sure they return to big, positive hooks.

"The Needle" might just be the best track here, as it builds from a sinister riff that brings to mind Guns 'N Roses classic "Rocket Queen", and takes off with a massive, hulking pop chorus that is absolutely killer. It's the kind of song that makes you wonder why metal usually seems intent on ridiculing the very thing that makes music so enjoyable. Even a song called "I Want To Die" can't bring things down too far, with a sweeping melody and dramatic flourishes that give it gravitas beyond simply being dark.

The record doesn't let up, either. I might call "Believer" a bit weak, but from then on the songs just keep hitting with huge hooks over and over again. And if you get the version that comes with the bonus track "Other Side", that just adds another tally in the win column. It's hard not to listen to a song like "Duat" and get swept up in Myrath's ability to spin a song. And there's something about the lo-fi, roaring twenties piano, leading off "Endure The Silence" that brings a smile to my face. The unusual little details Myrath throws into these songs always work, and never feel wedged in just for the sake of being different.

"Legacy" is an album that's hard to accurately describe. There's something about their blend of foreign elements with traditional melodic prog metal that doesn't fit neatly into our lexicon, leaving my with little to say but that this is an album that you owe it to yourself to at least check out. Myrath is making hugely melodic music that truly does something different, and that deserves respect. The fact that they pull it off this well deserves applause. "Legacy" is a great record, and along with the releases I've already reviewed from Sunburst and Redemption, have already made this a banner year for progressive-leaning metal.

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