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Carthagods – The Monster In Me (Album Review)

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Hannibal Barca’s triumphant rebirth.

The ever-expanding world of metal expression has time and again proven that it knows no borders, all the while being among the more receptive auditory art forms wherein synthesizing with vernacular musical practices is concerned. Often times this will occur via a band from a region prolific in metal opting to emulate aspects of another culture’s sound, such as the mystical vibes of Egyptian music that paint the brutality of South Carolina’s tech death extraordinaire outfit Nile and the regal, power metal meets Dream Theater displays of Norway’s own Pagan’s Mind. Then again, it’s always refreshing to get a take on the more exotic side of tonality and texture from a band hailing from the region of a given style of music’s birth, and this is precisely what the Tunisian born progressive power metal band Carthagods brings to the table with their sophomore outing The Monster In Me, right down to residing in one of the most historically significant locations in the history of classical civilization no less.

Though it may seem a bit counter-intuitive given that band’s relatively recent foray into studio recording, but this fold of up and comers have actually been at their respective craft in some capacity going all the way back to 1997, when power/prog was still a somewhat young sub-genre. They bring a highly technical display to the table that dovetails with the 90s progressive scene in question, showcasing a particularly high degree of competency in the six-string department. Lead guitarist Artak sails through streams of notes in rapid succession while being able to make the instrument sing in the most seamless of fashions, showcasing a strong affinity for the handiwork of John Petrucci and Jorn Lofstad. By the same token, while the overall aesthetic includes a healthy degree of dense keyboards for atmospheric death, the execution of these songs has as much of a heavy-stomping, modernistic affinity for Nevermore and Communic as it does a serene, bordering on symphonic feel.

While the resulting down definitely shares a good bit in common with a number of iconic European and American progressive outfits, Carthagods establishes a unique niche for themselves by weaving a massive sound that evenly balances out the mystique of their north African heritage with the common practices of a melodic metal experience. On the more familiar side of things is the persona of vocalist Mehdi Khema, who occasionally dabbles in some toneless, death-like vocalizations, but largely sticks to a gravely, larger than life demeanor that is heavily similar to the likes of ex-Iced Earth vocalist Matt Barlow and melodic metal mercenary Rick Altzi. Combined with a highly polished battery of riffs and a thunderous rhythm section, the resulting songs have a sort of colossal quality to them, almost channeling the visual of Hannibal Barca rallying his elephant-mounted cavalry before charging the armies of Caesar from higher ground.

“The Monster In Me” Album Artwork

The pacing of this album has a fairly uniform character of moderation, largely relying on a combination of complex rhythmic grooves and lofty atmospheric elements to drive home its thunderous presentation. Occasional hints of vernacular instrumentation peers in from the keyboards on pounding war anthems like “Whispers From The Wicked” and the title song “The Monster In Me”, but the overwhelming character of the punchy guitar work and Khema’s domineering vocal presence steal the show. Things get a tad more evenly distributed between the cinematic elements and the more metallic ones on slower anthems like “The Devil’s Doll” and the epic semi-ballad “A Last Sign”, but the overriding character of glorious battlefields reigns supreme. Interestingly enough, the most interesting musical offering to grace this album is the symphonic instrumental closer “The Rebirth II”, which could pass for the music for the end credits of a grand Hollywood production and really drives home the musical versatility this band possesses.

On the one hand, it’s a bit of a shame that this outfit struggled for the better part of 20 years to field their first studio album, as they could have presented a very interesting foil for the likes of Communic and Pagan’s Mind back in the early 2000s. Then again, it may likely be due to the excessive amount of time spent honing their craft that Carthagods was able to field such an enthralling opus and give it the massive production job that it obviously called for. This is definitely something that will play extremely well to those who enjoy the more technically oriented wizardry of dark progressive outfits such as Ghost Ship Octavius and the most recent offerings of Symphony X. The spirit of the mighty ancient empire of Carthage may have been subdued by the Caesars, but it is worthily remembered in the mighty songs of this towering opus.

Released by: Darkside Records Europe
Released Date: April 26th, 2019
Genre: Progressive / Power Metal

Musicians:

  • Mahdi Khema / Vocals
  • Tarak Ben Sassi / Guitars
  • Aymen Ben Hamed / Drums
  • Yessine Belghith / Bass
  • Timo Somers / Guitars

“The Monster In Me” Track-listing:

  1. Whispers from the Wicked
  2. The Monster in Me
  3. The Devils Doll
  4. The Rebirth
  5. A Last Sigh
  6. Cry out for the Land
  7. Memories of Never Ending Pains
  8. The Rebirth II
8.8 Excellent

A great cry was heard in the upper reaches of northern Africa, hearkening to a bygone time of glory when the might of Ancient Rome faced its greatest challenge via the sonic language of Nevermore, Communic, and Pagan’s Mind with a uniquely Carthaginian dialect.

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 9
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