|Review: Hamka - Unearth|
Label: Rising Realm Records
Year released: 2005
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: November 2, 2007
Reviewed by: Nicholas Lazarus
Rated 3.67/5 (73.33%) (6 Votes)
Before the first passage of music ever reaches your ears, Hamka promises to deliver an unusual take on things. The band hints at old world themes, and ancient civilizations: From the band name, which is taken from a Tibetan goddess, to the lyrics and artwork. I was eager to hear if they'd represent such things in the music. Indeed they do, and it's pulled off quite tactfully, with catchy riffs and musicianship to boot. For the most part they try to cover many ancient civilizations across the globe, and it makes for a highly enjoyable listen.
Esteemed power metal vocalist Elisa Martin delivers full force on this album, and it's nice to see her in a worthwhile project. She's at times more ballsy than the better part of her male contemporaries and still versatile enough to adapt to the music.
The riffs themselves blur the line between power, progressive and styles generally heavier. It's a nice mix, especially when combined with unconventional song structuring and refreshing harmonic depth. The drums are tight and all over the board. This is a very competent drummer. There is some keen keyboard work on display as well, which like all good keyboard work - doesn't get overbearing. The facet of the music that really sets this band apart however, is the "world" elements.
In Sand Glass there are high pitched hand drums and a Middle Eastern wind instrument (the name eludes me), and the same goes for Ghosts of Desert. Bells and piano in An end on Earth, a number of instruments on Atlantis Rising, from harp, to sitar and tabla (Indian drum). South American leanings in Eyes of Twilight, and in Legend's Empire, there is an array of far East elements with a gong and atmospheric keyboards as well as koto and shakuhachi (Japanese sitar and flute). As far as I can tell these are all synthesized on the keyboard, but still do the trick.
The "world" music blends well with what could best be described as symphonic progressive metal (and certainly moments of power and even speed metal), and even occasionally reminding me of the heydays of Dark Moor.
The only negative I see is the infrequent harsh vocals that are kind of hardcore sounding. The album could certainly do without them, but because of their infrequency, it hardly affects the overall quality.
In short: Great musicianship, in a well executed and dynamic old world theme that includes a symphonic progressive essence whose grandeur could rival a mountain. This is a tragically overlooked and underrated band. Very highly recommended for progressive, symphonic and power metal fans.
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