Tunisia’s principal metal export Myrath is back with another album that wallows in a bland lather of Orphaned Land’s Middle Eastern progressive metal and fairly standard if muscular power metal. The ripping neoclassical/medieval power metal of prime Blind Guardian this is not, nor is it the ‘any note not played thirteen times is a note wasted’ progressive metal onanism of Dream Theater. The excesses of either approach would have been welcome here, however, given that Myrath suffers from A Little Bit Of Everything syndrome – their chosen style of power/prog metal nibbles on a little bit of everything without ever committing enough to one thing to provide a satisfying meal. With more aggression, more attention paid to crafting noteworthy riffs, more indulgence in instrumental virtuosity, or a more laser-sharp focus on catchier or more anthemic power metal choruses, Myrath could really have a good thing going. Right now, not so much.
Album opener “Under Siege” utilizes a glitzy flurry of cartwheeling strings that nevertheless fails to disguise the uninspired Meshuggah-chunk riffing. The chorus is pleasant enough, but as is too often the case with this style, overstays its welcome. In fact, the most interesting part of the chorus isn’t the soaring melody or the occasional female backing vocal, but rather that the only instrumentation that maintains any interesting movement is the drumming, which is both accomplished and classy. The exhortation to “GO!” is almost universally an ill omen, and the midpoint of “Braving the Seas” is no exception, because though it ostensibly intends to introduce a wicked fierce breakdown, it instead serves to emphasize the lack of any punch to the riffing and the sub-Dream Theater keyboard soloing (this coming, by the way, from a guy who remains firmly committed to loving Dream Theater in the face of all logic and damage to personal relationships). “Merciless Times” then stumbles around in truly tepid fashion, and by the time we get to the chorus, the synthesized strings that accompany vocalist Zaher Zorgatti’s melodic turns sound rottenly familiar. Zorgatti has an effortlessly pure tone, but his vocal lines tend toward the too-heavily melismatic for my taste, although the impassioned turn he gives in “Sour Sigh” is quite refreshing.
Everything on Tales of the Sands is very professionally done, and the whole album sounds great, but the problem is that by around the third or fourth song, it’s nearly impossible to shake the feeling that Myrath has exhausted its bag of tricks. If the tricks they do pull – thick verse riffing, highly-adorned but just-short-of-soaring choruses, percussion that is interesting but leans too heavily on the same few rhythmic forms, and all manner of keyboard flourishes on Middle Eastern scales – are ones that consistently moisten your undergarments, then you’re in for a thrilling forty-five minutes. For the rest of us, though, apart from a brief section of double-bass underneath a screaming guitar solo in the title track, this is attention-sapping, exclusively mid-paced, extremely chuggy power/prog metal. You’ll find no sanctuary in thrilling riffs or hair-raising choruses, so you get on board with the melodies, get on board with the atmosphere, or get the hell out.
Now please excuse me while I get the hell out.