Kattah - Eyes of sand 3/5
1. Eyes of sand
2. This fire
3. Illusion of dreams
4. Deep feelings
5. I believe
7. Lebanese aura
9. Lebanese aura (edit version)
Not wasting any time here – if you don’t like Middle Eastern rhythms in your metal, Kattah won’t be for you. You get bands who build the odd song around that trick, but while Kattah don’t quite go the whole hog and fill the CD with it from beginning to end, this Arabian-influenced progressive/power metal debut has more than its fair share.
In fairness, ‘Eyes of sand’ is actually a fairly varied CD, and the zigzagging Middle Eastern parts are something akin to a recurring motif that ties the whole thing together rather than a be-all-end-all type of thing. While on the whole it is a fairly promising debut with some enjoyable songs, it is hampered by a series of annoying niggles that devalue the experience somewhat.
Vocalist Roni Sauaf is a bit perplexing, as he is the owner of a rather powerful set of pipes, but is rather guilty of over-singing and often it is an irksome distraction to the music. On occasion he sounds somewhat like a roughed-up Andre Matos (Brazilian progressive/power band influenced by Angra, shocker!), but his main influence seems to be the master of over-emoting himself, Tobias Sammet, and he imitates some of the little German’s melodramatic mannerisms a little too closely and it is to the detriment of the overall product.
While the general style of the songs is more a progressive-influenced power metal sound, the 4 main musicians definitely put in what you could call prog performances, syncopated drumming and juddering midtempo riffs making up much of the body of the CD. The bass is unusually far out in the front of the mix, and on the opening title track it even sets the false impression that it will crush the guitars out of sight for the duration, but things thankfully level out a little after that and Jean Buzzello’s fluid, intricate playing can be enjoyed without it being at the expense of anything else.
Keyboards, performed by a studio musician, are a steady background presence that come and go as required and thankfully don’t clutter things up in the mix even further. Generally used to create extra textures for the more overly Arabian-style songs, there are nonetheless a few stand-out moments, such as the soothing piano on the calm “This fire” or the brief, slow solo that crops up on the instrumental closing track (at least, before the needless single edit kicks in).
There are a couple of songs that display a bit more of a carefree and straightforward power metal attitude, though the vocal melodies on the galloping “Deep feelings” are, to be honest, a little commercial and even dangerously (whisper it) pop punk/emo-sounding. “Groupies” fairs a little better and opens on a nice traditional metal riff that stands out from the pack for all its brashness, before the huge “Lebanese aura”, the most intrinsically Middle Eastern track of the lot, goes in completely the opposite direction. Its long, long intro builds suitable tension before the winding main body of the song leads to a dominant chorus and a protracted instrumental closing section where the tempo is suddenly jacked up to allow the drums to thunder and the guitarists to solo like crazy.
At time it feels like the Middle Eastern sections overwhelm the rest of the songs, while at others they appear to be the strongest parts of the CD and a welcome presence next to other, less distinguished moments and this is of course indicative of an uneven debut. Kattah certainly have their charms, but on the other hand aren’t even close to being the finished article. Taken for what it is though, ‘Eyes of sand’ is a fairly enjoyable listen.
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