Melechesh - The Epigenesis
Nuclear Blast
11 songs (01:11:24)
Release year: 2010
Melechesh, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Charles
It’s been nearly five years since Melechesh released Emissaries, and in that time the record has never managed to climb as high in my estimation as its predecessor, Sphinx. A gleamingly polished blackened thrash machine it may be, soaked in evocative Eastern melody, but it lacks the vicious instrumental pyrotechnics of tracks like Apkallu Counsel or, in my view, the sheer slathering bite of the riffing. It is a focused and calculated album, whilst Sphynx’s kinetic energy channels the violence of the early records of Slayer. It is too disrespectful to Xul to suggest this is a consequence of Proscriptor leaving; such a trajectory is arguably common to bands from all over the rock world.

If you feel the same way, The Epigenesis’s opening track, Ghouls of Nineveh, will leave you a little cold. It is a decidedly mid-tempo, winding procession of the kind of riffs that Melechesh would typically use as low intensity connective tissue on faster songs. A very odd choice as an introduction and one that leaves the immediate impression of a band treading water. Next tune Grand Gathas of Baal Sin brings the tempo up suddenly and dramatically, a blaze of molten energy, until the almost funky breakdown that surfaces towards the end. Cobwebs are blown away, if a little belatedly.

With this record Melechesh seem to be pushing feelers out cautiously in different directions, presenting a very similar formula as on Emmissaries but peeking to determine if other elements can be brought in- perhaps more mainstream ones, but that doesn't tell the whole story. The Magickan and the Drones is an ambitious and brutal riot through crunching death-thrash riffs (like an Eastern take on the classic Slaughter of the Soul sound, pumped up with techy flair) and ominous, slower grinds. Defeating the Giants and Illumination… employ a surprisingly black metal blast reminiscent of As Jerusalem Burns, though the latter soon converts into an irresistible, almost tongue-in-cheek “Hey! Hey!” skipalong. What my former colleague Ross has called "the Melechesh shuffle" (which to me has always sounded like a metallized reggaeton beat) is largely downplayed here in favour of a more striding mid-paced groove. This has been honed to perfection on the addictive, stomping majesty of Mystics of the Pillar, and on other tunes (e.g. Sacred Geometry) it assumes an almost hard rock sensibility, even including grungy clean vocals. But at twelve minutes long and situated as the album’s grand finale, the title track is perhaps the climax we have been leading up to. And so it transpires; a dark, restrained thud given an intense atmosphere by the folk instrumentation and gloomy soloing that bleed slowly into the sound. Perhaps it lacks a truly explosive payoff, though as a slow-burning and tense closing statement it is particularly effective.

Ultimately, this is Melechesh; a band who would appear incapable of a weak album, and with a sound that they have defined and built into something potentially devastating. The Epigenesis comes on initially as business as usual, though further listens increasingly reveal new ideas filtering conservatively in. They appear more comfortable in a familiar sound and able to explore it a bit more without ever leaving it behind (despite what's been said here, there isn't anything as leftfield as their Gyroscope cover from the last album). Notably, it's more accessible, which is perhaps unsurprising given their move to Nuclear Blast. Melechesh has deserved wider acclaim for years, and this is a definite half-step towards it.

Killing Songs :
The Magickan and the Drones, The Epigenesis, Mystics of the Pillar
Charles quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Melechesh that we have reviewed:
Melechesh - Enki reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
Melechesh - Emissaries reviewed by Ross and quoted 95 / 100
Melechesh - Sphynx reviewed by Jason and quoted 87 / 100
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