There’s always a slight tingle of excitement every time I get the opportunity to add another category to our ever growing list of genres here at Lady Obscure. Even more so when said genre is one that I enjoy, and that the Lady straight up adores. Now, add to that the fact that Oriental Rock was pretty much redefined by the work of the artist in question today, Yossi Sassi. Sure, Oriental themes and influences have appeared in works all over the place; some great examples are Hope by Myrath, Better Unborn by Amorphis, and Frontiers by Tellus Requiem. But with Sassi, he even took it to another level, constructing amazing rock music, with progressive roots, around the classic Oriental folk structure, to a point where there is no discerning where the rock ends and the Oriental folk begins. In short, he succeeded magnificently in merging the two styles into something new and truly wondrous.
Now Sassi isn’t new by any means, even though this is only his second album, a follow up to the critically acclaimed Melting Clocks. He has spent 23 years as a producer and composer, and was also a founding member of the Israeli prog band Orphaned Land. He has shared stage time with many notable musicians including Steven Wilson, Metallica, and Steve Vai. For Desert Butterflies, in addition to vocal and guitar duties, Sassi has with him Or Lubianiker on bass, Shay Ifrah on drums, Ben Azar on guitars, and Roei Fridman on percussion. He has also brought along a slew of talented guest musicians to bring out the most in Dessert Butterflies, and boy do they ever.
If anyone is still unsure on the essence of what he does to Oriental rock, one needs go no further than the opening track, Orient Sun. Exotic strings and bleeding rich melodies paint an absolutely perfect instrumental picture of the rising sun bleeding into the sky. It’s textured and thick beyond comprehension, a sunning opener. The ethnic vibe introduced in Orient Sun is present throughout the album, though the theme it’s laid over varies greatly. This is an album dynamically rich and varied in where it’s coming from, to a point where if it wasn’t for the Oriental rock overtones, I would be amiss to classify it correctly. Whereas the opening track is an aural escapade of grandeur, the second track, Fata Morgana, is laced with a deep sense of mystery and temptation, with a thick, hard rocking middle section leading one to think that said temptation was successful. The pictures Sassi portrays with his music are visually stunning. The next track, Neo Ques, again jumps styles into one a jazzy, bluesy blend akin to a jamming club, but, again, the Oriental tones overtake it and make the song theirs.
Believe is one of two tracks with vocals, and some stunning female vocals at that from Mariangela Demurtas. This sassy Latin accented number, backed with her sultry blend of languages, is one seriously sexy song. The title track Desert Butterflies, drops in right after that with a beastly Peter Gunn-esque bass line, before moving into the Oriental overtones, finishing off with some rather beastly guitar work. Musicianship, throughout the album, is exquisite, as is the production and writing. The formula of taking that backbone of Oriental rock, and stretching it to its limit must have been a difficult task, but one that Yossi Sassi and the talented group of musicians with him have handled more than aptly.