Desert metal. That’s the tag line often attached to these Tunisian metallers, and it’s a tricky one to visualise at first. For instance, it might well conjure up images of the kind of ‘stoner rock’ peddled by the likes of Kyuss on such albums as Blues For The Red Sun – interesting, but ultimately a little bit of a musical cul-de-sac. Fear not, however, as these guys have something far more original, and powerful, than some Californian dudes wanting to get high and pretend to live in the desert (that’s a generalisation I hasten to add, not a literal description of the aforementioned Kyuss!)
Indeed, Myrath (the name is Arabic for ‘Legacy’) are the real deal. Hailing from Tunisia, they embrace their North African musical heritage and mix it up with a nifty line in epic power metal. The advantage here is that, though they are drawing on a rather more exotic musical palette than the blues or old Judas Priest albums, British, and American, ears are already attuned to this sort of influence thanks to groundbreaking efforts such as Led Zeppelin’s towering Kashmir. Once that had blown the doors open, there was a scramble as the likes of Stargazer, Gates Of Babylon and Perfect Strangers rushed through. Chalk that up as one big advantage right off the bat for Myrath, as there is a pretty big rock audience just waiting for more of that stuff. And it has to be said, this album delivers.
Confession time straight away, I can’t compare this in any erudite way with the studio albums (there have been six since the band evolved from the hopelessly named X-Tazy in 2005), because I haven’t heard them. I was hooked on this as soon as I cocked an ear to a promising sounding press release and YouTube clip, but I’m willing to bet there’s plenty of gold on those records as well. In fact, despite the name, this album opens with a studio track: a new version of their song Believer, featuring Don Airey on keyboards. It’s a great song, Dio influence all over it and plenty of epic choruses to have you punching the air in happy abandon – but there isn’t much of the ‘desert’ about it.
As soon as this finishes, however, we’re transported to Carthage (well, if you’re going to do a live album, make it Carthage rather than Carlisle I guess) for the opening double of Asl / Born To Survive, which opens in suitably Bedouin-esque fashion before the metal seeps in. Great moments abound throughout the performance – Dance is as infectious as its title, Beyond The Stars is suitably the most expansive cut, while the massively epic Duat and the insidiously atmospheric Tales Of The Sands are definite twin highlights. There’s even a live rendition of that opening Believer, so you can contrast the more ‘arabic’ and gritty live version with the smooth diamond which is the studio recording. You pays your dinars and you takes your choice, as one might say.
It’s also a CD/DVD digipak, so you can watch the guys go through their paces, and believe me they are exhilarating to watch. They clearly have complete belief in what they are doing, and their boundless energy and enthusiasm sweeps the audience with them. I dare say they might even conjure up the desert in Carlisle if they put their minds to it. Definitely one I consider a great belated discovery for 2020. Believe!