Wednesday 24 April 2019

Badraam - Ancient Temple (2019)

Country: Iran
Style: Progressive Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 23 Apr 2019
Sites: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Ancient Temple stood out to me because I'd read that it was Iranian thrash metal but, well, it isn't. I do see the confusion, because it's a lot more riff-based than most of the instrumental progressive metal out there and some of it definitely plays in the thrash sandbox. The band cite Megadeth as an influence, along with Dream Theater and guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen and Joe Satriani, and there's definitely some Megadeth here.

I say band, but this may or may not be another one man project, the leader and guitarist being Mohammad Ghasemi, who's based in Tehran. He's the only name listed on their Facebook page, but there are certainly five musicians on stage in the live videos I'm seeing on YouTube, though the keyboards are not credited there either. They play well together, so maybe they're a band rather than just Ghasemi and some session musicians.

I'm hearing three styles here and the primary one is surely the guitar led workout approach, with Ghasemi playing up a storm and the band following in his wake but refusing to let him turn this into a shred album. Even when he remains the highlight throughout the whole song, which is most of the time, he's not just soloing. I believe that he's aiming for his guitar to take on the role of the absent vocalist as well as that of the lead guitarist and I rather like that. There's a lot more Satch here than Yngwie.

The second is that thrash influence, which is most obvious on the bass heavy tracks such as Heavy Assault and the title track but is more overt towards the end of Sand Storm or at the beginning of Chaos in East. However, the band rarely reach that heads down blitzkrieg sort of speed, so this is no thrash album, even if Ghasemi was clearly influenced by thrash guitarists such as Marty Friedman and Alex Skolnick.

In fact, this could conceivably be considered as a collection of extended solo sections taken from thrash songs Badraam may have recorded elsewhere but aren't here for us to listen to in full. That's not strictly accurate, because these songs have beginnings and ends, even if they're brief, but it isn't too far off being believable. There are sections, for example, in The Day of Redemption, that sound rather like a classic Metallica bridge.

Finally, there's plenty of local flavour. I wouldn't say that this ventures into folk metal, especially with no ethnic instruments that I could detect beyond hand drums of some description on Mirage, but most of the songs have an overt Middle Eastern flavour somewhere, while some, such as Mirage, have little except for that Middle Eastern flavour, which is not a bad thing. It really is a positive in my eyes, because it broadens the spectrum of metal.

Combining these three approaches makes for an interesting album. I've heard Middle Eastern influenced songs from guitar virtuosos like Joe Satriani or Tony MacAlpine before, but these feel more authentic, for obvious reasons. Even on something ostensibly western, like Tornado, the closest to a shred song here because of its first half, there's still something else there.

I liked this, not only because of its memorable title track, but because of Ghasemi's versatility. I liked that this wasn't just a shred album, even if he does shred at points. I liked that it really felt like a regular album without vocals than an instrumental album because of the way his guitar was doing double duty. This is surely the primary reason why it doesn't fade at all into the background like many instrumental progressive metal albums.

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