I’ve heard the band called all sorts of things online and in print, from Black Metal, to Technical Thrash, to Groove Metal, to Melodic Death Metal, to Folk Metal, to Progressive Metal. No one label really suits the band as they can mix all of those things in an album and often in a single song.
They have a heck of a lot of technical sections in odd time signatures but they are not afraid to just slam away with some powerful Thrash for a while either. They incorporate Folk influences from their own culture, but that’s not really “the point” of the songs either. They lapse into slow, heavy grooves and apply pinch harmonics certainly, but its only one string to their multifaceted bow, and while the vocals can be reminiscent of Black Metal at times, the riffs aren’t really oppressive or icy sounding.
The truth is they are just a really unique, incredibly interesting and talented band, that come out with some very enjoyable music that covers a lot of ground within the Metal spectrum. They’re as suitable for fans of Dream Theater and Mastodon as they are for fans of At The Gates and Dark Tranquility, and as suitable for those fans as for fans of Dissection and Immortal. If you like all those bands and haven’t heard Melechesh yet, you might want to rectify that pretty soon.
Lyrically, the band have their unique selling point in the form of singing about interesting historical and fictional things from their own culture. What Amon Amarth do with Norse Mythology, Melechesch do with Sumerian/ Assyrian/ Mesopotamian folklore. It gives the listener an interesting perspective, and variety from all the usual gore or biblical stuff.
Sphynx carries on the tradition Melechesh have set for themselves, ever expanding their horizons without loosing their core sound, improving with each new record and adding some ghostly, evil-sounding folk moments and sound effects (in this case ‘Arrival Ritual’ and the hidden end of ‘Caravans To Ur’) into their collage of different Metallic styles. Its an incredibly instant album, that grabs your attention right away (Just try not to enjoy ‘Purifier Of The Stars’) but that has so many great little touches and hidden depths that you can listen to it over and over again and like it more every single time.
The great thing about this record is that you don’t have to be a massive Extreme Metal fan to enjoy it. Although its got a lot of the characteristics of the most intense, powerful and nasty sounding aspects of Metal music, its actually somehow strangely accessible and the band manage to write such catchy and enjoyable music that it never feels too dense or challenging, too difficult to get into, or even simply too noisy.
That being said however, don’t think that the album can’t satisfy tastes for heavy and extreme sounds; just check out the savage, thundering, blast-filled “Annunakai’s Golden Thrones.” That should tick all your boxes for rage, technicality and riffs that sound like a swarm of insects tearing the skin from living humans. Its just that the Groove sections, Thrash riffs and all that bouncy Sumerian stuff gives the record a lot of hooks and memorable sections that are really easy to latch onto.
Highlights include the ridiculously catchy and bouncy ‘Secrets Of Sumerian Sphynxology’ (if you wonder whether or not this album is for you, check that song out) as well as the monolithic, hypnotic display of talent that is ‘Apkallu Counsel’ and the surprisingly fun ‘Tablets Of Fire’ with its sneaky sounding riffs and enjoyable drumming.
Overall; Melechesch are a band with a hell of a lot to offer, a massive amount of talent and a lot of original ideas. If you like Extreme Metal they’ll feel like a breath of fresh air and if you don’t they are still accessible enough to really get a lot of enjoyment out of. If you choose to check out the band, Sphynx is a damn fine record to try and a great starting point for new fans. I listen to it really regularly and it never gets boring.