The Hourglass - _To the Land of the Free / Resurrection of the Horrid Dream_
(Independent, 2004)
by: Quentin Kalis (6 and 7 out of 10 respectively)
_To the Land of the Free_ and _Resurrection of the Horrid Dream_ are the debut and sophomore albums respectively by these Syrian (sans a Lebanese vocalist) traditional metallers.

Their debut suffers by too obviously referencing their influences -- "Holy Rage" in particular sounds as if it was written whilst Iron Maiden played in the background. The instrumental "Of Revenge and Glory" is worthy of special mention: it starts with an arpeggio whilst some synth strings stir softly in the background, before a soaring yet mournful lead begins.

_Resurrection of the Horrid Dream_ is their sophomore effort and retains the heavy metal format of the debut, but sounds less derivative, benefiting from improved production and better songwriting. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement, as the production could be even stronger and would greatly enhance their potent and catchy guitar riffs, and also eliminate the rather hollow snare drum. (The regular reader will note that this is a frequent problem that I consider to be particularly irksome!)

Otherwise, virtually every single aspect has improved noticeably: the vocalist can reach the higher octaves, the songs are more complex and developed, and they possess a more epic nature. The Hourglass may not record anything for three years, but they weren't sitting on their asses either.

Although neither of these appear to be concept albums, there do appear to be recurring themes -- especially one relating to mental enslavement, whether it be due to internal factors (such as "Selective Memory", based on the amazing movie "Memento") or external factors (such as "The Book", dealing with religion). Given the troubles in the Middle East region and resultant propaganda wars by both sides, often using religious scriptures to justify their abhorrent actions, sources of inspiration must have been in abundance.

Given the small scene in Syria, to say they are the shining light of the scene would be empty compliment, no different from being the Brazilian curling champion or the top matador from Guinea-Bissau; but there is definitely some unrealised potential present here.


(article published 27/7/2007)

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