Tuesday 11 February 2020

Anoushbard - Mithra (2020)

Country: Iran
Style: Progressive Metal
Rating: 5/10
Release Date: 7 Jan 2020
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I've heard a lot of interesting metal coming out of the unlikely country of Iran of late and here's another such album. It isn't the usual one man band as there are two this time out, but they're both guitarists which seems odd to me, even if one also sings. I enjoyed their work, but I didn't like the drums much, which I presume are programmed with a drum machine. They mostly seem glitchy to me, especially in scattershot mode.

What Anoushbard do best is to alternate between heavy and light sections. I wouldn't call it complex dynamic work because there don't always seem to be reasons for doing it, but I enjoyed both sides of that coin throughout.

The opener, for instance, Gates of Ctesiphon, starts out heavy like a death metal Iron Maiden (even if I can't place where I know that riff from) but, after a couple of minutes, it drops into an instrumental break that's middle eastern and neatly intricate. This alternation continues throughout the song until the odd ending, which I don't understand. It sounds like some sort of fireside interview, which makes little sense. I'm sure there's a good reason for it but I have no idea what that is.

Life Lady (Green Temple) alternates even more. Opening like a ritual with a refrain that sounds really metal ("I flayed his demons") but isn't really (I think it's actually "Life Lady's demons"), it goes all death metal, but then drops into a quiet section with clean vocals and intricate acoustic guitar (or is that some sort of Persian lute?). I have to say that the drumming at this point is glorious, sounding like someone's beating a wall with rushes.

And so we go. The heavier sections feel a little flat, because I don't think there's a bass in there at all and the drums are weird, but they're capable enough. The quieter ones are even better. I really dig the rhythmic approach to these sections. Many of them feature almost hypnotic repetition, as this band apparently never met a riff they liked that they weren't happy to use a dozen times for effect.

That sounds really negative, as if it sounds like I'm playing this on vinyl and it keeps skipping, but I'm thinking positively because I enjoyed it. To me, it's like a musician creating a sound and then looping it while he adds more layers to create a more complex piece of music. I don't believe that's what Anoushbard are doing but it feels like it often.

The Ward ditches the extreme metal sound for a NWOBHM style clean vocal, not early Maiden but a more generic approach that reminded me of Elixir. There's a lot more of that hypnotic repetition, though there's less alternation with only one quieter section which has some interesting effects layered over it. The alternation comes back on Inevitable Death which, as the title suggests, takes us back to an extreme sound. Again, it feels too clean, as if there's no bass at all, even if the vocals are death growls and the drums get extra fast.

I have no problem with the vocals here, though my favourite track may be the instrumental Haoma. The scattershot drums are annoying but the music behind them, whether it's acoustic and ethnic or electric and driving, has a lot to be said for it. I hope that Siavash Motalebi and Sherwin Baradaran, who are the musicians behind Anoushbard, get the opportunity to record this and the other material with an actual drummer at some point. Ironically, given that this is the shortest song on the album, I really didn't want it to end.

It did and it gave way to The Man Who Rides Through the Fire, which is more NWOBHM but much heavier and with some interesting backing vocals. Again, this would be a much better song with a real drummer and that's the problem with this album in a nutshell. Rather than enjoying the talented musicians, their intricate guitarwork and the interesting ideas they conjure up, I find myself hating the drum machine more and that makes this sadly feel more like a concept demo than a final work. There has to be a great drummer somewhere in Tehran. I hope Anoushbard find him.

Note: I'm rating this 5/10, which is low enough that I wouldn't usually post but those drums cost it at least a point, maybe another. The band's name is borrowed from a political prison in the Sasanian empire a millennium and a half ago, a place where people disappeared forever. I don't want this band to disappear so, while I'm not recommending this sound, I'm recommending the band behind it. I just want to hear them as they ought to be heard.

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