Words by: Erik De’Viking
Myrath are set to return with their first album since 2016’s Legacy, which saw the band achieve international acclaim, as well as tour with such acts as Symphony X and Dream Theater. The musicianship and vocal prowess on display in Myrath should have been sufficient to propel them to global stardom as a progressive metal band that can cross genres, but colonial attitudes towards music and its origins, as well as a rather myopic view of what is considered “Western appeal” have hampered this fantastic bands rise. It is sad that in the twenty first century, that these issues are still so prevalent. A band should be judged on their talent and their artistic measure, not for where they are from. This reduces them to a quaint novelty act instead of validating them as proper musicians who have more than paid their dues, and deserve proper recognition for what they have achieved. Having recently met lead singer Zaher Zorgati at the inaugural World Metal Congress in London in March, we had an opportunity to discuss the new album as well as the band’s place in the current world of music.
As someone who listens to any music as long as it’s good, regardless of origin, style, or genre, it never occurred to me that in many ways the larger musical picture was escaping me, and I pride myself with being well engaged – or so I thought. Discussing the fact that many Western bands can often get a record deal in less than two years, and yet bands from marginalised or ignored countries often have to rely on chance to be recognised (it took Myrath 10 years for example), Zaher explained, “That’s true, we can say that Tunisia as many other countries are “marginalised” regarding the music business and especially rock and metal music. It is the direct consequence of not having any platform for Metal, few bands, no record labels, so no one to invest in advertising, in the magazines, internet etc.” further adding, “many metal fans would prefer a bad “Viking” band from Sweden/France etc.. instead of a good band from Tunisia/Africa/India etc. It’s the same thing for cars, if it’s German, that’s good. That’s it.”
When you strip Myrath’s music back to its composite parts, you can hear elements of jazz, blues, metal, prog and even a bit of the alt-rock electronica that you’d associate with bands like Muse. Speaking on the band’s influences, Zaher explains that, “all the band members love many bands. Muse is definitely an awesome band, and one of our influences for sure, but we listen to a lot of bands, even pop music,” adding for instance, that “Everybody loves Sia in the band.” Which leads us to chatting about the origin and development of Myrath’s sound, which grew out of an Eric Clapton covers band. Zaher give details about what led them to where they are now, saying that “Ending up with the actual Myrath sound took a lot of time and work. At the beginning we started as a cover band, we were very young (thirteen-years-old) and the main purpose of doing that was just for fun. Playing with friends, songs we liked. Simple as that. After years as a cover band we wanted, as many bands do, to create our own music,” adding, “at the beginning, it was of course difficult because all the ideas were inspired by the music we were listening. But I think that’s the way many bands proceed.”
For a lot of bands the right producer is key to making or breaking a band, and for Myrath it was no different, “With our first album Hope and with the help of our producer Kevin Codfert we started to create what will be Myrath in the future: a mix btw Berber, Andalusian, rock, metal and prog music,” Zaher explained, adding, “Hope was a good start in that direction I guess.” Further elaborating, Zaher continued, “Since Hope, we did lot of iteration, always trying new stuff, but also adapt it to the crowd. And the more we played live the more we could find our own style,” adding, “the way we are composing changed a bit since Tales of the Sands. Before TOTS we were composing music, after, we started to compose songs, real songs that you can sing with an acoustic guitar.”
Their latest album, Shehili is a powerhouse of sound that broadens the musical catalogue of this incredibly talented band. Without question, the album forms a fantastic follow-up to Legacy, and as Zaher explains, the title is taken from, “the name of a dry wind coming from the South. It’s a kind of “Madeleine de Proust” for the band. Every child, going to school, faced the “Shehili” wind on his face. Shehili reminds us lot of things we did when we were young.” The album itself developed organically, as Zaher explains, “We didn’t have a special idea for the concept behind the album,” adding, “in my opinion the best way to do something good is to think “out of the box” without any rules. The result being that we end up with something new and fresh to our ears, so we decided to call it “Blazing Desert Metal!”
When the album opens, it creates a very strong visual in the mind’s eye of Bedouin peoples in some far flung corner of the desert and all the imagery that you associate with the culture before it launches into ‘Born to Survive’ and the power and passion behind the song starts you on your journey throughout the album. Zaher agrees, saying, “That was the idea. Music and sound can of course create strong images, and the Shehili intro was composed in this direction.”
As the album opens up and expands, it is difficult to choose the stand-out track or tracks. Normally you get one or two, that you say, “Yes, this is it. It all stands or falls on this track”, but as I have found, each song is so strong, and stands up so well, that I can only tell people to put on the headphones, kick back with their favourite tipple (a smoky single malt for me), and just let the sonic spheres of Shehili wash over you. While ‘No Holding Back’ and ‘Dance’ are particular favourites of mine, I posed the question to Zaher about how they choose what songs to be the release singles, and he admitted that, “It has been really difficult. We love all the songs. We chose ‘Dance’ and ‘No Holding Back’ because those two songs were perfectly matched to the video stories we released,” adding, “We needed something compatible with the scenario, for ‘Dance’ something short and groovy, and for ‘No Holding Back,’ something epic.”
It is safe to say that these songs and their accompanying videos accomplish that in spades.
The collaborative nature of the song-writing process, which also involves long-time producer Kevin Codfert, is free of ego, with Zaher adding, that “you will see Myrath as composer of every song in the booklet.” This desire to produce the best music possible has resulted in Shehili having a collection of stunning tracks with a big, plush sound, where you can hear every note with crystal clarity. Zaher explains that they, “recorded guitars, bass, keyboards and vocal in Kevin’s Studio in Paris, all the violin sections in Tunisia, and drums at the legendary “Chameleon Studio” in Hamburg,” and that, “Kevin organised all the tracks to make it sound as good as possible.” However unlike previous albums, Kevin worked with two additional producers to achieve the vision for the album, Eike Freese and Jens Bogren. This new admixture into the creative process results in a fat, rock sound from Eike’s contribution, a very precise and open sound from Jens, and the overarching sound of the album is rounded out by Kevin’s symphonic metal talents.
All these elements have combined to make Shehili one of the stand-out albums of 2019 for me. Musically the album has a compositional style that would not be out of place in a symphony. With grand sonic structures and sweeping musical arcs, making it a joy to listen to for that reason alone. Add in the lyrics, and you have a superb combination of thought provoking and beautifully written masterpieces that truly deserve our full attention. Myrath does a fantastic job of presenting a unique sound that is familiar, while speaking to something deep within the soul, and the psyche. It harnesses the myriad of sounds and cultural influences that are woven into the tapestry of Tunisian history, without being defined by it. It is a sound that is wholly their own; full of story arcs, visual narratives, and an underlying positivity that propels it into the stratosphere. If you are looking for something new, or are an existing fan of this tremendous band, then I urge you to check out Shehili upon its release. You will certainly not be disappointed.
While you’re here, why not check out our review of ‘Shehili’.
Myrath – Shehili
Released by: earMUSIC
Release Date: 3rd May 2019
Genre: Progressive / Melodic Metal / Blazing Desert Metal
Malek Ben Arbia – guitar
Elyes Bouchoucha – keyboards, backing vocals
Anis Jouini – bass
Zaher Zorgati – lead vocals
Morgan Berthet – drums
- Asl (Intro)
- Born To Survive
- You’ve Lost Yourself
- Wicked Dice
- Monster In My Closet
- Lili Twil
- No Holding Back
- Darkness Arise
Written by: Erik De’Viking
My Global Mind – UK Editor
Erik De’Viking is a London based freelance music journalist. His musical interests include music in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.