Melechesh - _Sphynx_
(Osmose, 2003)
by: Matthias Noll (8.5 out of 10)
Finally, here is another record that incorporates a massive dose of exotic influences as well as a solid a foundation within harsher styles, but which ultimately and refreshingly is the kind of METAL that defies all genre assignations and simply kicks some major ass. Despite the Middle Eastern flair and imagery, this is not about gimmicks and short-lived selling points. Underneath its unique style based on oriental scales, melodies and rhythm patterns, _Sphynx_ carries the torch for the power and the glory of metallic riffing and excellent songwriting skills. These Israelites have certainly come a long way since their very black metallish debut _As Jerusalem Burns_: on _Sphynx_, most traces of black metal have finally disappeared and the raspy vocals provide almost the only evidence of the band's stylistic roots. With the exception of the blistering "Annunaki's Golden Thrones", Melechesh have said farewell to breakneck speed -- and in their case it turns out to be a well chosen change of priorities, because the band's strength and heaviness lies so much more in their ability to create wicked mid-tempo grooves and well-crafted breaks than in all-out blasting Marduk-style. Melechesh have the skill to write riffs and song structures that remain complex without ever becoming technical enough to make you stop headbanging, and this time their material also carries an arcane, early Mercyful Fate quality and feel to it.

Both guitarists have tracked down greatly improved guitar work compared to past efforts, with some cool string-bending and unexpected variations adding more tension and variety to otherwise linear and deliberately repetitive passages. Maybe Andy LaRoque (in whose Los Angered studio _Sphynx_ was recorded) has shown Ashmedi and Moloch a musical trick or two. Drummer Proscriptor does not disappoint either, and adds an excellent performance different from the hyper-active style displayed on Absu's _Tara_. His playing is almost restrained here in comparison, but together with bass player Al'Hazred he forms a rock-solid rhythm section -- one where the whole team's joint effort is in the spotlight, rather than just his own amazing technical proficiency. LaRoque's production is professionally clear, loud and heavy, but while it's certainly well done, it still sounds a tiny little bit too compressed in places.

I have the strong feeling that even though this is an excellent record, the highlight of Melechesh's career is still to come; therefore, my rating remains a bit on the conservative side of things. For now this is certainly one of the very best metal records we'll get to hear in 2003, and the absolutely stunning artwork on the digipak release is also more than noteworthy. The fact that _Sphynx_ still manages to surprise me after many listening sessions only enhances the impression that this album has massive staying power.

[Paul Schwarz: "Though its final instrumental closing gives no "closure" to an album which demanded a mighty, earth-shattering finale to complement its majestic main-body collective, _Sphynx_ is otherwise scarily close to flawless. Furthermore, it reeks of even greater things to come; Melechesh are clearly destined to better themselves. Infused heavily and headily with Middle-Eastern sounds and rhythmic structures, _Sphynx_ strikes perfectly the perpetually fine balance between experimentation and focus which has led so many metal bands astray -- and resulted in others making some of the greatest albums the genre has ever produced. Despite stopping short of perfection this time 'round; despite not deserving "full marks"; Melechesh have entered that latter category. Undeniably metal, they are simultaneously vibrant, exciting, innovative and (seemingly) eternally listenable: I played _Sphynx_ into double figures soon after getting it in February, and I expect I'll be in triple figures before the year's out."]

(article published 8/31/2003)


CHATS
2/4/2007 J Smit Melechesh: Frayed Ends of Sanity
8/10/2003 A McKay Melechesh: Just to Hear What He Sphynx
8/12/2001 A Bromley Melechesh: Mesopotamian Hunger
ALBUMS
11/15/2006 J Montague 8.5 Melechesh - Emissaries
8/12/2001 A Bromley 8 Melechesh - Djinn
7/14/1997 S Hoeltzel 8 Melechesh - As Jerusalem Burns... Al'Intisar
GIGS
3/28/2011 J Carbon Rotting Christ / Melechesh / Abigail Williams / Lecherous Nocturne / The Ziggurat The Gates of Sumeria
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