Melechesh, and its founder guitarist Ashmedi, have several 'firsts' under their belt: the first non Israeli metal band from the middle east to get signed, and the first ever metal band out of Jerusalem with a record deal. Ashmedi, from the start, has blended black, and extreme metal in general, with traditional near eastern elements and philosophy. While black metal got its name from the pagan, anti-Christian, roots and philosophy bands in Scandinavia, Melechesh merges Sumerian and other ancient near eastern religions into their web of extreme metal. By its fundamental definition then, Melechesh remains 'black' or pagan metal since it stands against the Judeo-Christian tradition. But Ashmedi would probably prefer Mesopotamian metal. Regardless, I found Melechesh's fifth release The Epigenesis a intriguing and definitive work of progressive black metal, from an angle I didn't see coming.
Others have attempted similar ideas. America's Nile comes to mind with their Ancient Egyptian inspired death metal. But like most black metal, I can pass over most death metal for my part. Both have to offer some better than mere thrashing about with gruesome gravel vocals.
So then, listening to Melechesh's The Epigenesis causes some serious head-scratching. Songs like Ghouls of Nineveh or Grand Gathas of Baal Sin, excusing the typical undecipherable growling vocals, are perplexing and entertaining movements of creative extreme metal. Integrating traditional instruments (such as yayli tanbur, Azeri Tar, baglama saz, Indian sitar and Persian santur) with the conventional modes of affecting mayhem makes many songs simply unexpected sonic, can I say, pleasures. Certainly the instrumental When Halos of Candles Collide and A Greater Chain of Being which leads into the epic The Epigenesis. The title cut is anything but your run of the mill black, or whatever word you may use, metal. But then stuff here is just ordinary like the thrash redundancy of Defeating the Giants and the eight minutes extreme and rudimentary moshing within Mystics of the Pillar.
Overall, Melechesh's The Epigenesis stands the black metal category on its head, offering something much more interesting and devastating to this languishing genre. Recommended.