I am absolutely aware that many of you readers have been waiting with overflowing anticipation for a review of Melechesh‘s sixth opus, Enki. And who can blame you? 2010’s The Epigenesis was a solid, heavy, and above all enjoyable slab of Sumerian blackened thrash goodness that not only impressed The Big Boss himself, but also got yours truly to go searching through their back catalog to investigate their music further, discovering a treasure trove of incredible music from these Israeli wizards. So when Angry Metal Guy himself handed Enki off to me last week for review, I was frothing at the bit to deliver the goods to you. So what sonic magick have Ashmedi and cohorts delivered this fine eve for the readers of All Guys (and Madams) Metal and Angry?
When “Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged” truly kicks in at the :47 mark, you’re thrown into a sandstorm of brutality and melodic riffery. Ashmedi and fellow guitarist Moloch just shred and flail you alive with melody after crazed melody, with Lord Curse blasting his way like his very life depends on it. As the song progresses, it slows down just enough to keep from completely going off the rails but still keeps the intensity intact. Make no mistakes, you will windmill the ever-loving hell out of your neck and head to this, I promise you.
And while the first couple of tracks are just solid, perfect slabs of blackened thrash, you get some rather unpleasant sand kicked in your face once “Lost Tribes” plays, and this nagging problem is what keeps me from loving Enki more. Featuring one hell of a vocal duet with Max Cavalera (Soulfly), it’s a heavy, unforgiving scorcher of a track. Max hasn’t sounded this pissed off in ages, and Ashmedi plays off him very well, and when the duo hits their screams at 3:54, it’s such a perfect capstone to a great tune… but it continues on for another two minutes, and those two minutes aren’t nearly as captivating or intense as the previous almost-four. And it’s such a persistent problem throughout the majority of Enki: when a song has met its nadir and satisfied all hunger, it keeps feeding you with unnecessary calories. “Enki Divine Nature Awoken” features another duet, this time with Rotting Christ‘s Sakis Tolis, and would have been better shaved down to half its nearly-nine-minute runtime. The acoustic instrumental “Doorways to Irkala,” although incredibly peaceful, could have been left off the album entirely with no ill repercussions. The 12-plus-minute finale, “The Outsiders,” while picking things up a hair, still goes on for too long.
Another beef I have with the album is how squashed it is sonically. While George Bokos (ex-Rotting Christ) did a good job in capturing the richness of the guitars and the pummeling of Lord Curse’s drumming, Jonas Kjellgren’s mix compressed things way too much, with bassist Scorpios taking a major hit. This wouldn’t be too big a deal if their sound wasn’t so heavily based on their tuning their instruments to 432 MHz instead of the standard A440, which is perceived to leave deeper sonic vibrations within your psyche and make the listener more attuned with the universe. Of course, when you brickwall the music so much that Nergal is shaking his head at you, it becomes moot, and it’s such a bummer as there’s a ton of rich instrumentation to be had. Also, some edits have to be made. There’s about 40 minutes worth of captivating material on here, and this is an hour-and-two-minute long album. There’s obviously need for restraint there.
So while I’m happy that our Sumerian emissaries have returned from a five-year absence, I just wish Enki was condensed a bit more. There’s no denying that Melechesh deliver the goods quite well, but there’s also no denying that you can say a lot more with a bit less. It’s good, but it could have been a whole lot better.