Western and Eastern cultures collide in a darkly hued, politically aware album of cutting edge prog rock, ‘Beauty and The East’, the impressive debut release from Lebanese rock band, The Kordz. Their music may not yet have gained widespread currency, but along with India’s Motherjane and Morocco’s Lazywall, The Kordz are clearly in the vanguard of Eastern/Asian rock bands mounting a charge on western markets.
If you’re expecting an album of prejudice and polemic, think again. Yes, the searing imagery created by Moe Hamzeh’s and Rami Karami’s lyrics is coloured by their country’s violent history, but just as much address universal themes of human frailty, suspicion, hope and eventual salvation. And the music itself is self admittedly influenced by the eighties’ FM radio rock and metal they grew up listening to, as much as by the civil war that was going on around them.
The lyrical preoccupations are oblique but death is never far away. ‘Heroes& Killers’ doesn’t need much explanation and it’s matched perfectly to a pounding musical soundtrack, brimming over with shouty vocals and biting, screaming guitars. Musically ‘Nothing Or Everything’, ‘Insomnia Kid’ and ‘The End’ are densely plotted and difficult – it’s music that’s almost wilfully difficult to get a handle on, full of rhythmic thunder, eastern orchestrations and processed vocals. That said, they are magnificent listens, threaded with sturdy melodies and electrifying performances.
On the other hand, the superb ‘Save Us’, a neatly self contained rock song with a compact chorus, or the skewed opulence of the Bowie-esque ‘Don’t You Wait’ could pop up on Western radio, and you would never guess their origin. Well, at least until the frantic mizmar solo on the latter. This is what Arcade Fire would sound like if they came from Beirut.Elsewhere, ‘The Garden’ could be Spocks Beard or Enchant at their most pastoral and ‘Purgatory’ is simply stunning – a melodic, hard rock gem.
The dark mood and pithy lyrics of ‘Last Call’ – probably the album’s standout track -reflect a personal struggle to come to terms with the idea of mortality. The track is an awesome, dazzling piece of music. It may well be filled with grimly poetic observations, but it just shines with glittering stylings, twisting, turning, with sinuous Middle Eastern melodies snaking through progressive metal keyboard arrangements, behind an emotive, compelling vocal
The DVD includes a 40 minute (amusingly titled “Rock In A Hard Place”) documentary that plots the band’s development from covers band to this album, against an always uncertain and often dangerous background. Plus a couple of acoustic performances and a video of ‘Last Call’ – the band’s calling card.
The whole package demands a hefty investment of time and patience – the CD’s 16 tracks, plus the DVD add up to the best part of 2 hours. But nothing worthwhile ever came easy and the rewards here are rich. So go on, take a chance.