The Epigenesis

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Although Melechesh's greatest claim to fame is surely that of being the world's preeminent Middle Eastern heavy metal band, few people realize that the Israel-founded group has recorded all of its albums (save for 1996's primordial debut, As Jerusalem Burns) in continental Europe; nor that its current members have in fact resided in the West (the Netherlands, to be precise), for nigh on a decade, so as to avoid persecution for their radical views in their homeland. So in 2010, the band decided to practice what they preach in their so-called "Mesopotamian Metal" by recording its fifth studio album, The Epigenesis, where the East literally meets the West: Istanbul, Turkey. Once settled in the ancient city, Melechesh eagerly immersed themselves in this planetary crossroads' rich and diverse culture while reconnecting with their own origins in a bid to further their quest of fusing the centuries-old musical traditions of the orient with heavy metal's comparatively youthful hallmarks (not to mention a few novelties, like employing 12-string guitars for much of the album). And it's quite unlikely that anyone will challenge the band's success in this regard when faced with prime examples of interracial musical marriage such as "Grand Gathas of Baal Sin" (where blackened thrash duly gives way to a santur coda performed by local street musician Bijan Behkam), "When Halos of Candles Collide" (which somehow rethinks the Doors' "The End" via lilting folk instrumentation), "A Greater Chain of Being" (composed of tablas, tanbour, sitar, and not an ounce of metal), or the absolutely colossal title track (a hypnotic, belly dancing riff-fest to end all, errr…belly dancing riff-fests). Yet, perhaps even more shocking to longtime fans, is how a few key offerings here, including the standout "Mystics of the Pillar" and the album's measured and majestic opener, "Ghouls of Nineveh," boast not a single blastbeat among them (take that, ye black metal gods!); and although these do crop up now and again (within the aforementioned "Grand Gathas of Baal Sin," "Defeating the Giants," "Negative Theology," etc.), their relative paucity throughout The Epigenesis arguably liberates Melechesh from that broad black metal category for the first time in their long career. Sure, this development is hardly surprising given the group's extraordinary sonic expansion across 2006's Emissaries, but fulfilling those expectations yet again -- as Melechesh most certainly do on additional, well-rounded standouts like "Sacred Geometry" and "The Magickan and the Drones" -- without losing sight of their metallic foundations is certainly The Epigenesis' greatest triumph: bridging east and west; past and future; tradition and revolution; mythology and history like no other band active in the metal sphere.

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