Tragacanth. Hmm, that name looks distinctly foreign to me. I wonder what the origin is. As I gaze up the definition, that being a natural gum obtained from the dried sap of several species of middle eastern legumes of the genus Astragalus, I’m perplexed. Is this going to be some demented, experimental group? And then upon hearing the band in it’s full form through the course of their debut album “Anthology Of The East”, I grasp the “middle eastern” aspect of the definition.
The band play an Arabic style of metal through a good chunk of their material. The surprise that lies within is that the band is Dutch. While playing that regional sound for a band hailing from an entirely different region may sound odd, I remember hearing many different sounds emanating from the Netherlands in metal’s past, specifically The Gathering and Gorefest to name but two. So I try not to be judgmental in this respect.
The Arabic style is not noticed right away on first listen. Album opener “Rebirth” gives us a short intro of good vs. evil metal, and “The First Noble Truth” gives us a full-frontal blackened death assault turning to a melodic piano piece with an accented guitar solo, which is slow at first then speeds up to a suitable yet unfocused style. While the first two songs go from serene to bombastic in a pace befitting a black metal influenced death metal sound, the regional sound is put off till the third track “Birth Of A Goddess”. Egyptian inspired guitar work launches into a brutal assault, and the main problem with me is not the execution, but how reminiscent the band are of Nile in this instance. Not bad company to be in, but they’ve perfected their craft while Tragacanth have not, at least not at this point. Thankfully this comparison is not continued in a huge way through the rest of this release. Continuing with “The Gates Of Naraka”, the band chooses a more straight-ahead path without straying too far and feeling jumbled like the other tracks thus far. It ended too soon and left me wanting more.
So imagine my disappointment when the following compositions fail to keep my attention (or the middle-eastern theme in any large sense) and stumble to try and garner a working musical formula. While there is interesting banter between piano and guitar in the second-half of the album, not to mention some straight-ahead and forceful riffing with some interesting symphonic elements, it feels more like an exercise in trying to cram in as many ideas into a piece as possible. It gets frustrating and by the second-last track, the wheels have completely fallen off and I’m trying to figure out where the promising sound went. “Edimmu” ends the album on a thankful high note, with it’s to the point attitude and ferociousness. It slows down in spots but the momentum started in the first part of the song carries it through nicely to the end.
I come to the end of this album frustrated. After repeated listens, my frustration builds. And not a frustration based on lack of musicianship or interesting ideas, or even a lackluster production, but more to do with a lack of focus. Every instrument is played very tightly and the arrangements are well put together, however those same arrangements lead into areas where you scratch your head and wonder what happened to the momentum. Bands like this need to focus on the “less is more” approach. I’ve never understood why some metal bands see fit to throw a bunch of styles into a melting pot of ideas. A lot of times it boils over. It rarely gels to perfection. So perhaps the lesson for this band is that even though they have the chops and some great ideas, when album number two is being written, a more generalized idea would be the best approach as opposed to a plethora of ideas crammed into a full-length album. I’m actually eager to hear where they go with their sound as there’s promise, but for now I’ll just have to accept that some great musical ideas don’t always amount to a great musical execution.
02. The First Noble Truth
03. Birth Of A Goddess
04. The Gates Of Naraka
06. God Of Hell
07. Destroyer Of Worlds
Playing time: 43:47
Release date: 12 December, 2015
Label: Loud Rage Music
Website: Tragacanth Official Website