Tuesday 8 January 2019

Sechem - Disputes with My Ba (2018)

Country: Spain
Style: Folk Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 21 Dec 2018
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives

Oh, this looked enticing! Sechem, who hail from Madrid in Spain, play 'Middle Eastern folk metal with an overt Egyptian theme'. That's right up my alley! I imagined a cross between Nile and Orphaned Land and that's hardly a bad place to start this musical journey, because there's some of the crunch of the former and some of the invention of the latter.

However, add to that clean female vocals of the lovely Ikena, who sings in the English language, and the flute of Marta Sacri that dances over everything else much of the time and occasionally leads the way, and you end up with a band who sound refreshingly different, even on this, their debut album. They previously released an EP in 2016, Renaissance of the Ancient Ka, and their line up is almost unchanged, having only swapped out bassist Carlos Sobrino for Santiago Urruela.

I listened through this in entirety a couple of times in the wee hours and then came back it again today to take notes, still no closer to figuring out which of the ten tracks are standouts or favourites. Another few times through and I'm starting to get there. There's a consistency in approach throughout but each song has its own identity and its own little nuances to keep it apart from its peers.

That's most obvious is in the vocal work of Ikena. She's willing to soar high and free like a symphonic metal singer on tracks like Bird in a Cage, then ditch that for more sedate refrains surely intended to sound like ritual chanting on tracks like An Epic Journey to Yam, even laugh heartily and raucously at the end of Mummify Me! I'm coming to the realisation that my least favourite song is probably Horus & Seth, whose relatively straightforward story-based lyric gives her less opportunity than most of the rest of the album, especially coming as it does right after a similar approach in Sanehat.

Just because Ikena is an asset to the band, that doesn't mean that the musicians backing her up don't get their time in the spotlight too. For a start, she's not the only vocalist because one of her colleagues provides some deathly growls or muttered chants at points, albeit not too many of them. I've already mentioned Marta Sacri's flute too, which is the most overt element to set Sechem apart from other bands as well as the most overt folk instrument.

However, the most interesting sound is probably the interplay between guitars, which isn't like what you'd get in a Wishbone Ash or an Iron Maiden at all. If I'm reading this correctly, Pepo Raulli is responsible for all the electric guitar work and, when he's not soloing, he's adding depth to the bass and drums. However, Guille Ramos adds an acoustic guitar to the mix and he refuses to be relegated to just the intros as most bands would require. He's there during the songs too and the excellent production allows for it to be heard. For fascinating interplay between the more traditionally metal electric guitar and the ethnic stylings of its acoustic brother, check out An Epic Journey to Yam or The Shipwrecked Sailor.

There's a fantastic interlude in Waltz of the Three Fates too, which serves as a quiet but evocative intro to the final track, The Doomed Prince. And when that ends, I just want to listen to the album over again. It's not the best album I've heard this month but it may be the most likely to become a personal favourite.

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