In the under-explored genre that is “Oriental Metal,” Tunisian quintet Myrath look to create what their name—which means “legacy”—implies. There aren’t too many groups doing what they do, but that doesn’t stop them from taking it very seriously, including supporting the godfathers of the genre, Orphaned Land, in Europe this November. With their new release Tales of the Sands, we find relative newcomer Zaher Zorgati (who replaced vocalist Tarek Idouani in 2007) standing out with versatility and talent. Just when you think that his Maiden-esque belting vibrato is his signature feature, he breaks out with scales and quarter steps that surpass any inspiration or comparison.
Sands starts out with female chanting over a soft intro in “Under Seige,” but it doesn’t last long. Once the metal hits—and with it a Middle Eastern violin riff—the tone is set for the rest of the album. “Braving the Seas” features more of the same, but the chorus is catchy and succinct. The theme of Sands continues along that path: hard-hitting rhythms, with guitars led by founder Malek Ben Arbia blurring the line between traditional thrash licks and less familiar phrygian dominant phrases, and Zogati’s uncanny ability to mix power and beauty (not to mention seamless mixing of English and Arabic, choosing whichever is sonically apropos for the moment).
What separates Myrath from their brethren is the prog-metal influence, and after a few songs, it’s tempting to write them off as a Middle Eastern Dream Theater. Yet they reel you back in with moments like the pretty intro to “Sour Sigh” or the relentless double-kick of “Beyond the Stars.” At times the songs do run together, but each one has at least one hook that, upon second and third listens, will start to distinguish the tunes from one another, and will bring you back for a fourth.