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Myrath - "Tales Of The Sands" (CD)

Myrath - "Tales Of The Sands" CD cover image

"Tales Of The Sands" track listing:

1. Under Siege
2. Braving the Seas
3. Merciless Times
4. Tales of the Sands
5. Sour Sigh
6. Dawn Within
7. Wide Shut
8. Requiem for a Goodbye
9. Beyond the Stars
10. Time to Grow
11. Apostrophe for a Legend

Reviewed by on September 22, 2011

"'Tales of the Sands' should do what 'This Godless Endeavor' did for Nevermore in establishing the band as a chimera of talents with a solidified and recognizable sound."

It's safe to say that there aren't many bands that hail from Tunisia, and even fewer that have opened a show for rock legend Robert Plant. Myrath's third album, "Tales of the Sands," is a good example of heavy metal as a mighty vehicle for Tunisian culture and storytelling, which is a pretty exclusive specialty.

Similar in feel to that of Nightwish, Myrath favors a large and bright production style, including middle-eastern string sections, hand percussion, acoustics, and extensive attention to background details. There is hand percussion on nearly every song, and the parts are anything but your "hand percussion goes here" by-the-book inserts. They actually play a key part in several songs, like the title track, "Under Siege," "Braving the Seas," and especially "Merciless Times," and often appear in tandem with the rhythm section without getting lost in the mix.

The band members obviously knew what kind of sound they wanted when they hired tried and true producer Fredrik Nordstrom (In Flames, Dimmu Borgir, Dark Tranquillity) for mixing and Jens Bogren (Opeth, The Devin Townsend Project, Soilwork) for mastering. Kevin Codfert (Adagio) also does an excellent job on production. The combination is a true delight for audiophiles, with quite possibly the clearest and punchiest metal drum sound to come out on record in recent years.

Instrumentally, the violin and piano opening to "Sour Sigh" is beautifully mournful in its intro. When the song kicks in, the strings and percussion weave in and out of the guitars, fitting as naturally as a snake in the desert. This is exploited to great effect in "Wide Shut," as well. Guitarist Malek ben Arbia makes for a formidable presence and will easily be appreciated by fans of chunky groove-laden riffs with a bit of a Nevermore-meets-Symphony-X feel to them. His solos are numerous and shred-tastic, though his riffs are meant to balance out the song rather than dominate it, punctuating the rhythm as in "Dawn Within."

Vocalist Zaher Zarguatti manages to bring a thankfully accent-free, fire-laden, and full vibrato heavy voice into the picture. He's not overstated, especially compared with other hit-you-over-the-head-they're-so-middle-eastern vocalists. Thankfully, the drums are not overdone either. They're balls to the wall technical, but not for technicality's sake, making rhythmic jabs that make songs like "Wide Shut" and "Requiem for a Goodbye" real feasts of style and balance.

"Time to Grow" is a little too ambitious in its middle section, with bass tapping and a keyboard patch that feels out of place. Compared with the other songs, "Apostrophe for a Legend" feels too 80s and the lyrics -- "hear my prayers, gods of metal" -- are cheesy. Nevertheless, "Tales of the Sands" should do what "This Godless Endeavor" did for Nevermore in establishing the band as a chimera of talents with a solidified and recognizable sound. That's a lot to say for a sophomore album, but there aren't that many missteps or much filler to be found.

Highs: "Wide Shut," "Requiem for a Goodbye," and "Sour Sigh."

Lows: "Time to Grow" and "Apostrophe for a Legend."

Bottom line: Middle Eastern metal as well balanced and cutting as a scimitar.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)