“Regrets I’ve had a few but, then again, far too few to mention”, you may wonder why I have started this review with a Frank Sinatra quote? Do not worry, I have not started reviewing for the over 70’s, that line just struck a chord with me. As a music reviewer, we do have regrets but, thankfully, not major ones very often. I often wish I could see an artist I have reviewed live but, finances and logistics prevent it.
No, the regret that I have most often is, when a fantastic album passes me by. You see, I love my music. Music really does make my world go round, without music, life would be a mistake. Thankfully, writing for Lady Obscure does afford me the chance of reaching back in time and listening to these gems of near-history.
The album that I nearly missed out on and, trust me, I would have regretted this for ever more, is Nemrud’s ‘Ritual’. This was released last year and, apart from one little listen, completely passed me by until Lady Obscure’s founder brought it to my attention and offered me the chance to review it. I have to say a heartfelt thank you for that fortuity!
Nemrud are a Turkish rock band achieving worldwide success with their psychedelic and progressive rock music. Formed in 2008 by Mert Gocay (guitar and vocals), the current line-up consists of Mert Gocay, Mert Topel (keyboards), Aycan Sari (bass) and Mert Alkaya (drums). They released their first concept album ‘Journey of the Shaman’ through Musea Records in 2010. The album tells the story of the physical and spiritual journey of Mitos, a shaman who lived on the steps of Central Asia. The three stories on the album represent the three kingdoms of shamanistic belief. ‘Ritual’ is the second album by Nemrud, released in May 2013 via Musea Records again. It is another concept album, this time composing 4 pieces, about a schizoid person who tries to face himself in his own dreams for his own enlightenment.
Let us delve into this fantastical album and see what delights it can deliver shall we?
The first track is In My Mind and begins with a psychedelic, techno inspired introduction, all sound effects and the low humming of the keyboards, the guitar starts up with a simple, repeated melody and builds up the tension before a powerful, uncomplicated riff holds sway. The vocals begin, basic and unadorned, and complement the music perfectly. The instrumental interludes whisk you away to a timeless place, very 70’s and psychedelic in their composition and delivery, especially the swirling keyboards. The gentle, chiming guitar meanders around providing a smooth backdrop as Mert Gocay’s voice becomes more of a voice over, a story teller if you like. There are facets and nuances in the album that require more than one listen to appreciate, enhancing the impression that this is music for the soul and not for instant gratification. This song bleeds into your psyche leaving a long lasting impression and, as a start to the album you couldn’t ask any more, the heavier run out is a clever touch, oriental and full of eastern promise.
Sorrow by Oneself begins with a low synth note and gentle guitar, more ambient than psychedelic. It is slow and purposeful but with a catchy melody that holds your attention. Again, the vocals are intentionally low in the mix, at one with the general feel of the music rather than apart and aloof. The general tone is one of melancholy and delicious agony. The wistfulness and sombre nature take a back seat half way through the song as coruscating keyboards and pensive guitar are corralled, as if awaiting release, and then set forth upon your musical senses. The guitar starts repetitively, mirrored by the keyboards and bass and you wait with bated breath and considerable anticipation. What comes next is just delightful, a cleverly strummed guitar and upbeat drums allow the song to take flight and lull your senses. Where before it was moody and reflective, it is now positive and heartening, a superior finish to an exultant track.
The shortest track of the four is also the most dreamlike and ethereal. Light is just over two minutes of spirituality with a church like organ and the most earnest vocals matched to a tender and placid guitar. The bass solo is cultivated and precise. It is a little gem of a song that is more than just a palate cleanser for the big finish.
And what a big finish it is, title track Ritual comes in at a tad over 18 minutes and is worth every second. The intro is pure 80’s synth pop, I half expected it to turn into Ultravox, atmospheric and deep, setting the scene for what will follow. In fact it is almost portentous and grips you, vice like before an intriguing, ominous sounding guitar note takes up the tale. Mert’s laid back, bare vocals then join in, a perfect match for the moribund and doleful ambience. The keyboards provide a serious backdrop to proceedings and, just when the tension becomes almost unbearable, a pared back and cultivated guitar note lifts the mood and the swooping, slightly distorted guitar run that follows is a masterly touch. It is at this point that the track moves in a different direction, taking on a quicker, faster paced beat, the momentum upheld by some great psychedelic guitar playing and a notable organ running in the background. The keyboards and guitar sound are hugely reminiscent of classic 70’s progressive rock and an excellent homage to that era. The whole track has a transcendent edge to it, almost an out of this world or out of mind experience, the repeated guitar melody and continuous electronic overtone from the keyboards burrow deep into your central core and leave a mark. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for more surprises, just as you think this song has run its course, it comes and hits you in the proverbial with a crunching riff and powerful drums breaking any reverie you might have been enjoying. It is punchy and impressive, exceedingly catchy and a brilliant touch but, then again, after what has gone before, should I have expected any less? There is an ululating solo that is distorted and mind blowing and the drums really do get a work out on this track. The song runs out with a hefty psychedelic finish and we are done with this superb album for now.
It always amazes how much brilliant music there is out there that can lie, undiscovered, like a fossil covered by sand on a deserted shore. Thankfully, like treasure hunters, there are those that can dig deep and discover these musical gems. I give thanks to the heavens that Nemrud and ‘Ritual’ didn’t pass me by, like a ship that passes in the night, for it is a sublime piece of musical excellence that deserves serious exposure and success. Trust me the next album from this impressive band will not suffer the same fate in any way, I await its release with much anticipation.