REVIEW: Myrath – Karma

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Why is it that the more successful bands get, the more they move towards a more direct, accessible, and commercial sound? Granted, for some bands, this streamlined approach isn’t such a big leap and actually works in their favor but for others, it’s not always easy to reconcile who they once were with who they currently are. I have been through this rollercoaster with the likes of WITHIN TEMPTATION, NIGHTWISH, and LORD OF THE LOST. Now I can add the Tunisian Oriental metal band MYRATH to the list, as they showcase a more aggressive and direct sound on “Karma.” The album releases on March 8th, 2024, via earMUSIC, and it’s probably their heaviest since “Tales of the Sands” (2011).

For those not in the know, MYRATH is Tunisia’s most successful metal band as they have dazzled and enchanted the fans for five albums with their exquisite blend of heavy guitars, soaring vocals, thundering bass, and beautiful Middle Eastern melodies. In time, this mixture of sounds and cultures, paired with top-tier technicality and immersive storytelling, has secured them spots as opening/support act for many heavyweights of the scene such as SYMPHONY X, KAMELOT, BEAST IN BLACK, or EPICA, as well as slots at major festivals ranging from ProgPower USA to Sweden Rock Festival, Wacken, Leyendas del Rock, and Hellfest. This also exposed vocalist Zaher Zorgati as one of the best up-and-coming powerhouse performers boasting a deep and rich voice and a fantastic ability to sing in a traditional Arabic fashion that makes certain songs a delight to listen to. Anis Jouini has also revealed himself as an incredible bass player, while Malek Ben Arbia proved to be a guitar whizz and Morgan Berthet is stellar behind the drums. All around MYRATH are quite a force to be reckoned with.

This new studio effort follows the winning formula of the breakthrough album “Legacy” (2016) and its follow-up “Shehili” (2019) but also differs in significant ways. As such, expect tasty guitar riffs, mesmerizing key passages (from long-time producer Kevin Codfert), groovy bass lines, bombastic soundscapes, towering vocals, and some backing orchestrations. In this respect, singles “Into the Light” and “Child of Prophecy” are perfect examples of the classic MYRATH sound balancing oriental melodies, sharp riffs, sparking keys, and powerful vocals, while singles “Candles Cry” and “Heroes” are great examples of the band’s heavier side with more aggressive vocal deliveries, intense instrumentals, and dramatic lyrical content that reflect the current realities of war and destruction.

Despite the Oriental flourishes, these four singles point to a more mainstream and straight-to-the-point direction for the band, and this is where “Karma” differs from the rest of their discography – it has a lesser emphasis on the Middle Eastern melodies and puts a bigger accent on the heaviness factor. This also means differences in the vocal approach to the songs with no more lyrics sung in Arabic (or any other traditional ways of singing for that matter), Zaher is singing with more grit and power this time around. On top of everything the backing orchestrations, when they do appear, are lower in the mix than the instrumentals which makes the record feel less folky and more heavy/power metal.

With that being said, the rest of the album does offer some strong melodies and energetic soundscapes that neatly juxtapose the beauty of the keys and the darkness of the lyrics. The opener “To the Stars” boasts a catchy chorus and some orchestrations that add a cinematic touch to the music contrasting with the chunky riff and vocals before the album highlight “Into the Light” showcases what MYRATH truly brings to the metal scene (as mentioned earlier). Punchy “Let it Go” has a great bass line going for it alongside some chiming keys and a sing-along chorus but it’s the next one, cinematic “Words Are Failing,” that again delights with gorgeous Middle Eastern melodies, delicate vocal melodies, and a grand chorus section. As far as I’m concerned, this is easily another album highlight.

Up next, “The Wheel of Time” is a dark and ominous piece with a melancholy feel to the chorus and another great bass melody pumping beneath the orchestrations and guitars. Nonetheless, take away the oriental arrangements and many of these tracks are straightforward heavy metal tunes, and such numbers as “Temple Walls” or “The Empire” are no exception here, despite the keys and fiery solos. This is a pretty dark and gloomy album both musically and lyrically so having a closer as “Carry On” with its optimistic chorus, swelling violins, and heavy guitars is like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the perfect closing track winding down the album and meshing up the main highlights in one dramatic piece of music.   

All-in-all, “Karma” is a solid studio effort with a big, cinematic sound (courtesy of Jacob Hansen) that will definitely see MYRATH grow in popularity across the metal scene but, because of the album’s production, it is downplaying two crucial elements of their sonic identity – the folk/Oriental melodies and their progressive songwriting. These are the main reasons why I’m having mixed feelings about it (hopefully in time I’ll warm up to it). Other than that, “Karma” is a melodic, catchy, fast-paced beast of an album with an undercurrent of gloominess in the stories it tells but with a smooth flow to the songs and pockets of beauty in a sea of heaviness that is surely to captivate the metal crowds.

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

  • To the Stars
  • Into the Light
  • Candles Cry
  • Let It Go
  • Worlds Are Failing
  • The Wheel of Time
  • Temple Walls
  • Child of Prophecy
  • The Empire
  • Heroes
  • Carry on

Lineup

Zaher Zorgati – lead vocals
Malek Ben Arbia – guitars
Anis Jouini – bass
Morgan Berthet – drums
Kevin Codfert – keyboards, pianos, backing vocals

Label

earMUSIC

Links

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