Thursday
25
June
2009

Chris Ruel: Mizraab – Mazi Haal Mustaqbil (Album Review)

album review

Mizraab: Mazi Haal Mutaqbil
By: Christopher Ruel
Published: Monday August 2nd, 2004

Out of the nebulous depths of the brilliant mind of Pakastani guitarist / composer, Faraz Anwar, comes a fresh, new, unique sound and conceptual vision on his 2004 collaboration with Irfan Ahmed, Jamal Mustafa, and Khalid Mustafa on the Sadaf Stereo release, Mazi Haal Mutaqbil. Anwar and company (a.k.a Mizraab) diverge from the instrumental format of his previous release, Abstract Point Of View, and instead embark in a new direction that aims to redefine the progressive vocal rock format. The album is arranged in a manner that starts slowly by establishing an atmosphere of despondant conflict, tension, turmoil, and desparation that builds with each successive track into the unrestrained, emotional tracks that explode with the climactic centerpiece tracks, “Mutazir” and “Kuch Hai”. First time listeners should be forewarned to be patient to allow the intricate plot to unfold, as Mizraab does not reveal the true depth of this album in the first several tracksm, but instead entices the listener to endure for the promised salvation of the climax.

What differentiates this album from others that have ventured into the realm of progressive vocal rock is the boundless imagination that Faraz Anwar’s musical inventiveness entwines with profound emotional depth, mesmerizing conceptual grasp, and fluidic stream of consciousness. Staying true to the impressive style that he defined in Abstract Point Of View, Anwar continues on Mazi Haal Mutaqbil to compose intensive musical arrangements that fuse exotic Eastern and Western tonality, cultural idioms, and complex rhythms that are laden with Anwar’s trademark, unending, winding, and breathtaking changes. Whereas many Western progressive musicians have attempted to capture and integrate Eastern scales and modality to convey an exotic feel, Mazi Haal Mutaqbil delivers an authentic fusion of Eastern and Western stylisms that unmistakeably projects a deep understanding of both musical cultural paradigms in a seemless manner that brings new integrity and meaning to the concept of cultural fusion. What Anwar, Ahmed, and the Jamal, and Khalid have accomplished on this album is truly amazing, deeply profound, and spiritually gratifying.

A signature trait that was easily recognizeable on Anwar’s previous release, Abstract Point Of View, is his command over composition to project emotional content thereby taking the listener on an epic journey through new, undiscovered, and intensely rich soundscapes that lead the listener to an epiphany of spiritual discovery. Anwar once again liberally bestows this enthralling talent on Mazi Haal Mutaqbil with great effect. Despite my original doubts for the album that were marked with some skepticism that the vocal format would limit the musical scope, Mizraab has far exceeded all of my original expectations with its clearly perceivable musical vision, easily accessible yet complex arrangements, seductive tonality, and hypnotic rhythms that conjure flares of exotic Middle Eastern imagery; not to mention the jaw-dropping, inspired electric lead guitar passages that hold the listener captive with their searing and savory harmonies and melodies. There is an exotic beauty in these themes that leaves the listener paralyzed with awe and inspiration. In addition to this, the carefully crafted vocals voiced in the native Pakistani language bring yet another profound dimension to the album with the unearthly harmonies and heart-felt lyrics that sail seemingly to the heavens above the soulful acoustic guitar work that Anwar supports them with, notably on the eigth and eleventh tracks, “Muntazir” and “Kuch Hai”.

Besides the fusion of Eastern and Western musical philosophies already mentioned, the stylistic approach on this album is both unequivocably unique and strikingly mature. Mizraab deploys a combination of heavy-textured electric guitars, resonant acoustic guitars, gripping lead guitar tones, and driving percussionry to give voice to his incredible musical vision. The style fuses not only cultural (musical) philosphies, but also stylistic philosophies from within the different cultural paradigms that are joined. Anwar draws from a repertoire of catchy, aggressive hard rock rhythms, advanced, engrossing progressive composition, captivating neoclassical melodic and thematic development, exotic, outside tonality, intricate, Holdsworthian, dissonantly-flavored sequences, and sophisticated modern guitar techniques of Western music, as well as all of the intricate meters, hypnotic rhythms, and ethereal harmonies gained from the Eastern influences. These seemingly incongruous stylistic elements are woven together into a spectacular musical tapestry that projects an awe-inspiring musical vision that is at times despairing, bewildering, and empowered with the harsh shocks of the mortal coil; at other times it is majestic, inspiring, and spiritually uplifting; at all times it is inescapably compelling. The musical components are bound with a relentless drive and vision brought to life with the powerful guitar rhythms, riveting, soulful lead guitar themes, thundering drum work, and soaring vocals.

True to the diverse style defined on Abstract Point Of View, Mazi Haal Mutaqbil also embraces another signature trademark from the Faraz Anwar school of style on this album. For Faraz Anwar, music is not merely a set of notes scribed on the staffs invented on the basis of tonal relations and exacting combinations of timing and conventional progression. Instead Anwar approaches music as art, as a medium for projecting feeling, emotional content, and persona. The music takes the listener on a gripping voyage into the darkness of despair to subject them to a dire frame of reference of the harsh realities of the world we live in. But, despite his clear perception of the oppressive realities of life, Anwar chooses not to plunge his audience into a downward spiral of hopelessness, but instead lifts the listener from these shadows with his inspiring themes that elevate the listener from the dismal ashes of devastation to the towering heights of righteous salvation offered by his heartwrenching lead guitar passages and superb vocal harmonies. (And, followers of my reviews will surely take into consideration how critical my reviews typically are of vocals.) The redeeming albeit sparing optimism that Anwar imparts to this complex music is the saving grace that takes the music to a deeply gratifying spiritual plane and that distinguishes it from other music of this genre.

Of the many progressive albums that I have been sent to review that undertake a progressive vocal rock format, this album, Mazi Haal Mutaqbil from Mizraab is hands down the best of breed that I have encountered to date. This is mainly due to the relentless drive, unyielding intensity, sophisticated savvy, and extraordinary emotional projection of Faraz Anwar’s rhythm and lead guitar work, but is also largely due to the amazing, seamless fusion of Eastern and Western musical philosophies, vocal harmonies, and profoundly gratifying musical vision that is imparted to the listener on this album. In the view of this author, this album stands as a landmark in modern world music for its combination of texturing, stylisms, and open-minded approach to music that not only integrates cultural styles, but does it with modern progressive instrumentation, such as heavily-textured electric guitar, tactful synthesizers, and unrelenting percussionry. This is an album that will grow pleasingly upon listeners with each successive absorption of the richly conceived sonic designs contained within. As a point of reference, fans of Marty Friedman’s exotic guitar work should be very interested in this album due to the combination of heavy electric guitar texturing with Eastern stylisms, as well as the inventive changes.

Though I may have mentioned mainly Faraz Anwar throughout this review, the album is solid in terms of all roles of musicians and production, so there is no slight intended to the others involved, as it is well known that Anwar is the featured musician.

As a parting note to the Western audience: though this album is voiced in the native Pakistani language, do not allow this to taint your expectations with doubts that suggest that you will not be able to perceive the music and visionry contained on this album. The music is complex, exotic, and unusual. However, give it five or ten listenings and you will most likely be addicted (as I was) to the truthful emotion that is projected that transcends cultural boundaries. As I eventually concluded, the language is immaterial and the message is conveyed remarkably without the words even being understood. Maybe with the meaning of the lyrics left to the imagination this might keep the music permanently exotic and slightly intangible for the Western audience, as are the characters and creatures of all epic stories. Otherwise, as a suggestion, liner notes with the English translation might answer these questions for the listener…

And, as yet another parting note to the pertaining to the significance of this album in the context of recent historical events, I would like to add, that in a time where it seems that Eastern and Western cultures are colliding on a perilous course in world affairs, Faraz Anwar and Mizraab have offered a new voice and perspective in the world theatre that seems to say in the same breath that East and West can coexist in harmony and that the human condition in this world is something that is shared by all. It seems that Mazi Haal Mutaqbil beckons the listener to consider that when the beauty and artistic value is extracted from both cultures (as Mizraab has done with this music) that the resulting fusion of philosophies is pleasing to all ears regardless of cultural bias. It is amazing to see that in a time when cultures are apparently becoming more polarized that such a strong voice should emerge that beckons wisdom be restored to the world. I truly have no idea of what message lies within the lyrics of this album. Having offered these thoughts, I can only hope that the message of these lyrics is true to the message that is conveyed with the emotional content. I cannot imagine that it could be any other way.

Postscript: If all rock music were to achieve this level of quality, I would start listening to the radio again! Not since the pioneers of progressive concept rock, such as Pink Floyd, Yes, Kansas, and the Beatles, has there been an album I have listened to that delivered such a strong and sincere human message in this genre with so much musical depth. In addition to alleviating my apprehensions for vocals-based progressive rock, what Faraz Anwar has done with the electric guitar on this album leaves me speechless with appreciation for true artistry.

Players

Faraz Anwar: Guitars, Keyboards, Vox
Jamal Mustafa: Rhythm Guitars
Irfan Ahmed:            Drums
Khalid Mustafa :    Bass

Tracks

1. Mayusee
2. Panchi
3. Worldeterne
4. Meri Terhan
5. Janay Main
6. Insaan
7. Aag
8. Kitni Sadian
9. Muntazir
10. Akhir Kyun
11. Kuch Hai
12. Izhaar

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