Metalheads are always the curious ones, who – support their artist regardless; local, mainstream or underground. They only want new and good music to listen to. One fine day this curiosity lead me to Metal Archives, to listen to something close to exactly what I like. And advanced search lead me to Maahlas who had recently released their debut album, ‘Nightmare Years’.
Maahlas is a two- piece band from Oslo, Norway started by guitarist Cuneyt Caglayan in 2013 when he moved from Istanbul, met vocalist Levent Ultanur and decided to start a band. Norway? Must be black metal was the first thought I had. To be precise, the band can be categorized as a ‘Progressive melodic blackened death metal’. It was the first time I had heard black and progressive in the same sentence which, naturally forced me to check them out. I had made up my mind about how the band would sound like; Opeth with some black influences and melodic guitar solos.
‘Nightmare Years’ is a concept album and being a huge Ayreon fan, I have a thing for concept albums. Firstly, black and progressive metal in one sentence and then a concept album!? I had no reason to miss out on this one. It took me 2-3 weeks of continuous listening to understand it.
“More explosions…where is the hope now my life was built upon
Radio Interruptions… for those who vowed by this life imposed upon.
To end this tyranny, saving these lives son,
You must end even your own
I know this insanity, but justice can or can’t be fair to save innocence”
These lyrics mark the beginning of the album; with ‘Sun Of The Sumerian’. Unlike other black, death or melodic bands, Maahlas is nowhere close to brutal and are even farther away from typical black or death metal. It’s a progressive band with death and black influences. High tempo bass drums blending into strong riffs with beautiful and elegant growls (Yes! beautiful and elegant growls).
This is followed by ‘A False World’ which has a melodic intro leading into hard hitting riffs and those lyrics are sure to move the listener. My favorite part comes when Levent sings “Year zero prolonging the end…” where that music in background just reflects what an extra-ordinary guitarist Cuneyt is.
This album tells a story of collapse of the human race and the rise of a new, evolved race; ‘Homo-Sentients’ which is also represented in the album cover, realized by Aybars Altay. The cover image shows the decline of Homosapiens with many holes which represent their imperfections and the evolution of Homo-sentinents which are perfect, and reaching up towards the light.
‘Morning Light’ has lots of black metal influences fused with perfectly set up guitars. ‘An Ancestral Memory’ follows with lots of hypnotic riffs to blow your mind away. ‘At The Edge Of Life’ sounds like a black metal ballad, choruses in the background are like orders from a war which can be heard in almost all tracks.
Creating music is an art, and you can’t just sing all the time and suppress the music. A good band knows when to shut up and the instrumental speak the thousand words. Maahlas do just that as they give us a short break with ‘Æra’ from the journey they took us on. Story orated by the acoustic guitar is worth a million words which the band could not ever express with lyrics. Second half commences with the title track ‘Nightmare Years’ which is one of the best tracks of the album. Lots of variation is shown by each and everyone in guitars, vocals, bass and drums. This song is a treat in itself .It will immobilize you for the 4-minutes it lasts, making you one with it. As the album progresses with ‘The Great Divide’ and ‘The Birth Of Sentinence’, it just shows the height of musicianship by Levent and Cuneyt and how much effort has been put into the music.
‘Of Hypocrisy, Hate and Fall’ prepares for the ending of the album. The intro will give you wings. The song is extremely emotional, heavy, yet at same time so soulful. I almost thought the album ended, but so commences the last track; ‘Simulacrum Of Reality’. A perfect mix of harsh and melodic music, as the Homo Sentient speaks to his God,
“You ought to have observed my soul
We might have resolved to evolve in your minds”
And with those words the album ends. ‘Nightmare Years’ expresses a lot of emotions. It is a musical journey in itself. The album has been mixed, mastered and produced by the guitarist Cuneyt Caglayan, who even played bass and wrote all drum tracks for the album. Top notch musicianship displayed here by Cuneyt.
In a nutshell,this album is a genre defining masterpiece… I haven’t heard such a massive album in a real long time. It is hands down the best album of this decade after Kreator’s ‘Phantom Antichrist’ (2012). Maahlas with their debut can easily compete against the biggest names in metal with whole of their discography. You’ll have no idea of what you will be missing if you don’t check this album out.
You can buy and listen to the album at following links:
P.S. Don’t hesitate to contact the band at http://www.facebook.com/Maahlas