Melechesh return with dose of Sumerian-inspired, mysteriously dark black metal power on ‘Enki’

MelecheshThere are bands that, no matter how long they are together and no matter how many records they release, you feel like each new effort takes you somewhere worthwhile. Whether it’s being transported somewhere mentally or giving you a taste of something happening on the other side of the world, long-running bands that always manage to move you somewhere are to be treasured.

Melechesh are one of those, the Jerusalem-bred band driven by primary creator Ashmedi, who has helmed the band since its creation back in 1993 and still is finding inspiration in a virtual unending oasis of Mesopotamian/Sumerian mythology and lore. Over the course of six albums now, they have blessed the world with a nice catalog of Middle Eastern-flavored black metal that can both mesmerize and destroy you, and this band has remained one of the most unique and identifiable anywhere. That’s not an easy feat in today’s oversaturated world. But from the band’s 1996 debut “As Jerusalem Burns … Al’Intisar” through to their last record “The Epigenesis,” Melechesh have provided a constant look into a world still quite mysterious to many of us Westerners but that has been a part of Ashmedi’s DNA from the very beginning.

Melechesh coverIt’s been five long years since we last heard from the band, and oddly, it doesn’t seem like that much time has passed since “The Epigenesis.” Maybe that’s just me. But anyway, the band has returned with a 62-minute, nine-track opus “Enki,” named after a Sumerian god of mischief, crafts, water, and other elements. Ashmedi remains front and center here, driving the band through these great cuts, and he and the rest of the unit assembled for this record really answered the bell. Moloch returned to offer his guitar work, which he has in the past, and long-time associate Lord Curse came back on board to provide drums, melding a union with fellow rhythm player, bassist Scorpios. They managed to make one of Melechesh’s most interesting records in some time, one I find myself enjoying as much as anything since their earlier days. It’s really rich and always rewarding.

“Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged” is a mouthful to say, and it has a sweltering start that’s torn open with massive riffs. There is a brief narration followed by mystical melodies and eventually devastating growls that come in. The song chugs with force, with a punk feel in some spots, ending with a last assault that’s harsh and texturesd. “The Pendulum Speaks” has guitars leaning in, followed by steady drumming that sets the pace. The growls sound apocalyptic and deadly, with the tempo driving forward, the lead guitars dizzying, and the whole thing taking on a mesmerizing ambiance. “Last Tribes” strikes hard and fast, leaving you no time to prepare. The song is fast, the vocals are barked out, and the leads trickle heavily, surrounding your feet with water and blood. After a brief bit of calm, the thunder returns, with the band striking hard and the soloing burning out of control. “Multiple Truths” drives dust and sand into the air again, with an otherworldly feel to the guitars, and creaky, shriek-filled vocals from Ashmedi, who bellows about “words from the soil,” as the final moments mash you into a paste.

“Enki Divine Nature Awoken” is the second-longest track at 8:38, and it begins deep into a Middle Eastern-style string section, hazy, cloudy instrumentation, and then a pattern of ferocity. Some of the tempo is mucky and sludgy, with an echoey voice later speaking over the noise, before chant-like singing and a mystical ambiance take the song to its final resting place. “Metatron and Man” is in full rage from the get go, with fiery playing and Ashmedi wailing, “The fallen ones are calling you!” The band hits a punishing level of thrash goodness, with more chant-like shouts and a furious conclusion. “The Palm the Eye and Lapis Lazuli” begins with sitars setting the mood and a fog wafting in, before riffs blow up, and the band hits a serious groove. Again the band finds a devastating black thrash mode, with Ashmedi howling, “Let me show you the way,” as the track dissolves into fire. “Doorways to Irkala” is quite a twist in a different direction, and this mostly quiet instrumental barely rises above a hush and creates a mysterious atmosphere. There are acoustics, moaning strings, native horns, hand drumming, and a reflective state achieved. That all leads to the 12:47 conclusion “The Outsiders,” a track that takes a little bit of time to get its footing, but once it does, it’s pretty dazzling. The guitar work really powers this one for the most part, as the soloing is soulful and exploratory, letting your mind go with them. But with about three minutes left, they turn their weapons on you. A crazed outburst occurs, with the band hitting full stride, the vocals sounding infernally delivered, and the lead lines even leaning into blues before all is said, done, and left smoking.

Melechesh sound refreshed and invigorated, making “Enki” a pleasant surprise from a well-rounded, well-traveled veteran band. If these guys need to keep taking five-year stretches to find true inspiration for recording, then the world is better for it. This is one of the band’s more enjoyable, colorful albums, and it provides no shortage of opportunities to be whisked away and planted in the sunburnt desert, where Melechesh finds their muse.

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