1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 343

Emissaries, by Melechesh
Suggested by Owen Pauling

Another day, another growl fest…

It used to be simple, this project. I’d randomise three albums, and I’d consume them whole, eyes bright, expectations even, emotions modulated, smile wide. As the mornings rolled by, however, a touch of weariness, of cynicism, came creeping through the bushes and pounced on my back. At first, I spurned it: so what if that genre made me wince, after five or six lacklustre albums in a row? Maybe the seventh was golden! And who cares if the album’s title or band name conjures images of distended rectums being obliterated with lump hammers? Maybe there won’t be any godawful growl this time!

Sadly, in regard to the second offense, I’ve come to realise if it looks like a duck, it’ll quack like a duck. Not every black metal band is Party Cannon, after all.

So. Melechesh. Emissaries. What do we know? Thanks to Gregory Google, we know they’re an Assyrian Black Metal band with a twenty-six year pedigree. We know they’ve released six studio albums in that time. And we also know, more promisingly, that they’re something called Mizrahi Metal, which is defined as an Israeli music genre that combines elements from the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. So while I’m assuming it’ll be Growly McGrowlerson on vocals, there may be a little spice and intrigue to the accompaniment.

Emissaries is the band’s fourth album, and a quick trawl of their song titles brings you everything you’ll likely need. We’ve Extemporized Ophthalmic Release, we’ve Deluge of Delusional Dreams, we’ve Leper Jerusalem, we’ve Touching the Spheres of Sepiroth. Or, as I’m calling it, Fondling the Balls of Brian.

Musically, they are at once predictable and surprising. Their opening track Rebirth of the Nemesis (Enuma Elish Rewritten) will likely any further questions you may have, as it’s part rote with quickfire drums and laughable muppet-growl, and part exciting with the wailing guitar touching upon traditional Middle Eastern themes and play patterns. As is the case with all music of this type, the question is whether you can take the rough with the smooth. Does your love for the music overpower your distaste for the singing? With me, as you know, it does not, and likely never will.

It’s a predictable shame, because musically, Melechesh are innovative and partly attractive. Some of the better songs have an almost straight rocky feel, such as Ladders to Sumeria and Gyroscope, and when they build into the Blackest of metals withing those songs it does feel organic. And their mission statement, to draw in those eclectic exotic sounds? They nail it. But then they use a vocalist that mimics the sound of sheet metal being angle ground, and we’re done.

Standout song? The Scribes of Kur. Why? Because it’s nothing like the others. It’s an instrumental, so that’s a huge tick. It’s far more melodic and less metallic, and it forgoes the standard metal drumset for more tribal percussive sounds. I’d suggest you take a listen, because it’s an excellent song, but in no way is it representative of the rest of the album.

Emissaries gets 5/10. Another promising band that are stymied by their frontman. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll get past this mental barrier and embrace the genre with true affection, but today is not that day.

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