[Mel-Uh n-Koh-Lee-Uh, -Kohl-yuh]
With a rather fitting title, Heterochrome, the Tehran-based progressive metal band’s album Melancholia certainly describes the life of musicians and artists in Iran.
Whilst this subject will be ultimately touched on further in a related article, the general overview of the situation for music in Iran is that, unless the Government body set up to safeguard the fundamentals of the cultural and spiritual revolution which changed Iran from a western leaning monarchy to a pseudo-isolationist, antagonistic hardline nation says your music is fine by their rules, you are in for a world of problems…. And to be honest, if I found myself in that situation, I would be rather melancholic myself!
But instead of burying their heads in the sand, people like those in the band Heterochrome are putting their lives on the line to rise above the oppression and bring forth music to those who wish to hear it. Being a band of metallic nature in genre, and featuring female vocals also, Heterochrome are certainly aiming high on the “what Iran considers blasphemous” stakes, and putting it bluntly, if a band is willing to go against everything, risking their life to make music and get it out there, it deserves to be discussed and shared!
So, with curiousity piqued and thoughts engaged, let us experience what the withdrawals of free expression have created!
Melancholia is a six track, thirty minute long release. Tracks weigh in around the four to eight minute point in length, offering plenty of differing levels of intensity, complexity, heaviness and tonal qualities and musical approaches, all of which combine wonderfully to make a vibrant and engaging musical experience.
With plenty of flair and exotic melodies which ring out wonderfully across the six tracks, it is rather evident that there would be a ‘Middle Eastern’ feel to this release, but it doesn’t become the trope. There are no musical sequences which bring forth mental images of snake charmers, bustling market places and other clichés which litter contempory media with regards to what was formerly known as ‘The Fertile Crescent’ region of the world.
Instead there is intelligent use of melodic phrasings and voicings which capture the attention, similar to bands like Poem and Mother Of Millions (Both from Athens, Greece) and the titans of modern progressive metal: Tool, Symphony X and Dream Theater.
The shifting rhythms which come courtesy of some wonderful polyrhythmic patterns on the drums, the hypnotic and swaying basslines and captivating guitar hooks provide a solid foundation for the musical construct the band create to come alive, expressed through the medium of two distinct vocal delivers – a rich and expressive, emotionally resonant female lead; and a more raw and intimidating male growl. The union of these elements creates what is an incredible display of musical creativity and a solid display of putting your everything into something you love.
From the exotic and hypnotic opening track “Cage” which shares some similarities with the enigmatic Tool; the hauntingly beautiful instrumental “Regret” which showcases some incredible displays of musicianship, to the crowning moment of this album: “Purgatory” which has that Floydian feel found lurking on the Dark Side Of The Moon…. The creativity, emotional impact and expressive nature of Heterochrome’s work on Melancholia is something which would be foolish to ignore or discard. Be it the subtleties in the delivery, the little touches in the background and overarching sounds which help create a captivating atmosphere, the slick delivery of the music or the composition and arrangements put forward, this album stands tall and holds its ground on all fronts.
A diamond in the rough? A buried treasure in the deserts? Call it what you want, but overall, this album is a statement which puts Heterochrome on the musical map.
To my ear, I cannot detect anything sacriligious/blasphemic/heretical, but I am not someone under the employ of the Iranian government whose job consists of safeguarding the “Iranian Culture’s Beliefs”. The only thing I can hear is wonderful music which should be allowed to be aired with no restraints or opposition.