rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. To The Stars
02. Into The Light
03. Candles Cry
04. Let It Go
05. Words Are Failing
06. The Wheel Of Time
07. Temple Walls
08. Child Of Prophecy
09. The Empire
10. Heroes
11. Carry On

The main problem with newly minted subgenres is that by the time most people are aware that they exist, any band with a modicum of sense will be heading for the exit. So-called "Oriental metal" is a good example. Arguably started by the mighty ORPHANED LAND, its ill-defined rabble of bands may have shared certain sensibilities that drew from Middle Eastern musical traditions and folk-fueled atmospheres, but the significant thing that the likes of MELECHESH, AMASEFFER and ARKAN have in common is their intuitively unorthodox approach to making music.

This is plainly true of MYRATH: Tunisia's sole major contribution to global metal, and the one band tarred with the Oriental brush that always seemed to have aspirations beyond filling a media-created niche. Despite being continually scuppered by geography and the complete lack of suitable infrastructure in their native land, MYRATH have already transcended their initial reputation as a progressive power metal band born in an unfamiliar cultural landscape. 18 years and five widely praised albums into their story, the Tunisians have spent so much time negotiating worldly obstacles that they could be forgiven for fading into the background and saving themselves any more stress.

Luckily for the rest of us, they have steadfastly refused to buckle under the combined weight of big expectations and slender opportunities. The first album to feature a slimmed down lineup (early member Elyes Bouchoucha departed in 2022),  "Karma" noisily confirms that MYRATH still have sizeable ambitions and creative desires that need to be satisfied. While still recognizable as the band that made defining works like "Legacy" (2016) and "Shehili" (2019),  they have sharpened up in all departments on their fifth full-length. If you want to label this Oriental metal, you still can. The somewhat more exciting reality is that "Karma" marks a huge step towards a more universal mindset. Essentially a bombastic, melodic metal record with Middle Eastern trimmings, this is where MYRATH really begin to throw their collective weight around. Defined by big tunes, big hearts and an overall spirit that promises to invigorate the weariest of souls, "Karma" is a fiercely forward-looking piece of work.

There were plenty of magical moments on MYRATH's earlier records, many of which relished the chance to bring those esoteric influences to the fore. "Karma" is still awash with the orchestral flourishes and eclectic instrumentation that informed its predecessors, but these songs get straight to the heart of the matter, with towering melodies, succinct arrangements and a hefty dose of heavy metal thunder. Opener "To The Stars" makes it plain that the band are simplifying things to ensure maximum impact, and with enough power metal bluster to ensure that every song connects on a visceral level, rather than just an atmospheric one. "Into The Light" hammers the point home, with symphonic intricacies and subtle twists galore, but also with a chorus that feels like a climactic crescendo every time it appears. Vocalist Zaher Zorgati has long been one of the finest singers in metal, and he sounds ecstatic and very much at home singing songs that play to his strengths. Blessed with pristine, radio-rock sheen, "Candles Cry" places the frontman in the eye of an elegant, tumultuous storm. Gleefully accessible and palpably cinematic, it offers a wonderful, new encapsulation of the MYRATH ethos. These are songs that delve into the human condition, with all its beauty and horror, but the Tunisians' refreshed perspective is almost relentlessly uplifting. Everything from the pugnacious positivity of "Let It Go" to the show-stopping tension-and-release of EVERGREY-like closer "Carry On" hits like a jolting rush of endorphins, with Zorgati delivering the most powerful and emotionally supercharged vocal performance imaginable. You can take your pick from the palatial modern metal of "Child Of Prophecy" and razor-sharp single "Heroes" for this album's giddiest peaks, but with zero filler and an overwhelming abundance of passion and humanity on display, "Karma" is utterly irresistible from start to finish.

Author: Dom Lawson
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