One could chalk down MELECHESH's four-year interval between this album and their 2006 effort “Emissaries” to various reasons – label issues, line-up shuffles etc – but I’m more inclined to say that the delay was caused by something far more mundane: writer’s block. Yep, a crippling lack of inspiration. “The Epigenesis” is the natural result of what happens when impetus remains but the spark is gone.
I’d never though that I’d use terms like ‘disappointing’ and ‘mediocre’ in a MELECHESH review, but in this case, I simply have no choice – this album is a shocking letdown. I’ve heard far worse albums than this one so far this year, but in terms of not having my admittedly lofty expectations met, this one ranks as the chief offender. How so? you ask. Well, because this album is not only crushingly boring but simply too damn safe. It is the work of a band dabbling in formula.
Go back and listen to albums like “Sphynx” and the aforementioned “Emissaries”. What made you love those albums? The dynamic interplay between Black, Death, and Progressive Metal, the rich (and genuinely creepy) Sumerian sound-scapes, the highly intricate drumming – that’s what. Now sit down with “The Epigenesis” and tell me if any of these elements remain. Moreover, tell me if they actually utilize these in such a way that they improve and/or broaden the MELECHESH sound. Hmmm... thought so.
To be fair, this album still carries that unmistakable MELECHESH sound; there are still lots of Middle-eastern vibes intertwined with the Black-ish riffs, and the searing vocals of Ashmedi are still as spot-on as ever. The production is also mightily impressive, giving the album what is easily the best guitar tone I’ve heard in a long time. The problem is that it all comes off as so blasé. The substance remains, but the essence, that magical “X-factor,” is gone. As such, the band is simply not playing to its strengths.
The most immediate difference between this album and past works is the glaring lack of speed and aggression. These elements do come into play on songs like “Grand Gathas Of Baal Sin” and “Defeating The Giants” – easily two of the best tracks on here – but overall, this album is a seriously slow and plodding affair, rife with entry-level grooves and infuriating levels of sheer repetition. Take opener “Ghouls Of Nineveh” – nothing but 7 minutes of grooving that relies on the exact same riff throughout its duration. It never “takes off,” it remains resolutely mid-paced, and as an album opener, it is the worst of its kind. They follow the same formula on the 12-minute title track – the sluggish riffs crawl along without any purpose, and while the lead work is decent enough, it closes off the album on a decidedly feeble note. The fact that it is mostly instrumental doesn’t help matters either.
Speaking of instrumentals/interludes, they make up about 15 minutes of the album and consist of little more than never-ending acoustic sitar and background ambience.
In addition to “Grand Gathas Of Baal Sin” and “Defeating The Giants,” there are a couple of okay tracks on here, most notably “The Magickan And The Drones” - that sounds like a more mystical ABSU when it finally picks up the pace - and the rhythmically pounding “Negative Theology,” which is pretty much the only song where the incessant grooving actually pays off. These fleeting moments of brilliance do save the album from utter doom but they are few and far between, made even more frustrating since I know these guys are capable of music much more dynamic and challenging than this drivel.
This groove-heavy lopsided approach is what sunk EXODUS’s latest album, and just like “Exhibit B,” this album really does not have enough in the tank to see it through. When you cut away all the excess fat and superfluous instrumental parts, there’s literally no more than an EP’s worth of decent material on “The Epigenesis”. What a waste...
(Online October 22, 2010)