I have to admit it's not uncommon for us, here at Clouds And Clocks, to receive some weird stuff. And once in a while we get some really weird stuff. Case in point: It was around Christmas that we got an e-mail message from... well, from somebody who said to be writing about his group, which he described as being "an Iranian progressive power metal band". At first I thought it was a prank - I mean, "an Iranian metal band" sounds pretty peculiar to me, with or without the tag "progressive power". I mean, isn't Heavy Metal banned in that country? To help me better understand, it was said that one of the group's crucial influences were Iced Earth - a group whose name, it goes without saying, I'd never heard in my life. I was about to throw this strange letter into the waste basket when I thought that maybe - well, maybe - this could be for real. "An Iranian progressive power metal band", you say, right?

Well, it turned out to be true. Ahoora (yep, that's their name) turned out to be a quartet of young, technically quite skilled, and very talented musicians (Ashkan Hadavand Khani, lead vocals; Milad Tangshir, guitars; Mohammad Baei, bass; Ali Masoomi, drums) who had somehow released an album of the same name, with lyrics in English. I have to admit in cases like this my first instinct is wanting to help - but how? Am I qualified to listen to - and review! - an album of Metal? I mean, what do I know about metal?

Well, I would never say "plenty", but I know more than a few things. It's painfully obvious that I lack the systematic approach of somebody who regularly listen to the stuff, and I'm sure I don't know the first thing about all the various subgenres Metal has subdivided into in the last couple of decades. But what about an outsider's view? Well, let me make a fool of myself (insert deep breath here).

Too young to even get to know about early Who and Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds, I became somewhat familiar with "heavy guitar" in the form of Hendrix and Clapton (in his Cream days). It's really funny to think back about the way things turned out to be in... well, Metal (here I could start a lengthy discussion about the hows and the whys "hard" and "heavy" Rock and Metal differ... but I just won't, OK?) when it comes to the (c)overt influence of the three reigning bands of the early 70s: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, with the third group (a distant third at the time in terms of the width of musical territory covered, technical skill, instrumental finesse... well, they sure got the first prize for boominess and tackiness) that would turn out to be the most influential on whole genres of modern music. Though it's quite obvious that Jimmy Page gets mentioned a lot less than his real influence would deserve (Kashmir, anyone?), while the "European sounding" Ritchie Blackmore proved to be the missing link between the "old school" and the "modern metal", scalloped fingerboard and all. It's also quite peculiar how some things that at the time were seen as being just a minor aberration - Motorhead, say - proved to have such a lasting influence. And how some groups that at the time were seen as "second-hand imitators" (and yes, those clothes didn't help) - think: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard - in the end came to be regarded as "originals".

Some trends are (somewhat) clear, however. For instance, the disappearance of the blues pentatonic scale as being the main mode of expression. But these things ultimately come and go, with the old becoming once again the new - think Metallica, from Master Of Puppets to the "Black Album" to the cover of Bob Seeger's Turn The Page. And in the States things were always more complex that they appeared at first sight - check the multitude of genres featured on Blue Öyster Cult's debut album, released in 1972. And of course, it's not that one has to really reveal the identity of those one really listens to - it's just me, or in the 80s a lot of metal guitarists were listening to Allan Holdsworth? Obviously, one will underestimate the influence of Eddie Van Halen at one's own peril - yes, Robert Johnson and Jimi Hendrix, sure; let's add Mandrill; but those were not the first names that came to mind when listening to Living Colour's Vernon Reid. And let's not forget about those wide, flat fingerboards (Hamer, ESP, Jackson...) and Floyd Rose tremolos.

Where does it all lead us? It's not easy to say. There was an interesting article by Chris Cutler that appeared about twenty years ago on the ReR Quarterly about Skill and (sub)cultural issues concerning punk, new wave and metal (wonder whether it can be found online). One really has the feeling that for the most part the press has always seen Metal as an embarrassment - even when compared to hip-hop and techno! (Just a touch of irony on my part.) It's true, Metal is limited and set in his ways - but this can also be called an "identity", right? Whatever the reason(s), while modern hip-hop has become the mainstream, and techno has in some ways been absorbed into the mainstream, Metal has remained a "fringe" cult, albeit a massive one. (One doesn't have to forget about Joe Satriani, whose melodicism makes him stand apart from Metal.)

One very important thing we forget at our own peril is the fact that for many Metal is a music that still maintains a quality of "authenticity" (I hope this is clear), a fact that makes this music much more than a "form". Hence, the oppositional quality Metal appears to possess for most of those who like it, be it players or listeners.

Ahoora features six tracks for a total of 53'. The album closes with the same arpeggio that is placed at the very beginning of the first track, hence the sense of a loop. The four musicians are all really good, with vocals (lead and background) being quite versatile for the genre, agile drums (excellent bass drum), an electric bass that sometimes doubles the riffs and sometimes goes into counterpoint mode, and very good guitars: clear, ringing arpeggiated parts; throaty, distorted riffs; and clear leads. I can't really detect one main influence (except for Iced Earth, of course!), but I definitely hear a strong affinity for a Ritchie Blackmore/Highway Star kind of arpeggiated guitar solos (check the opening track, Spiritual Creator; also Flock, and the closing instrumental track, Ahoora). Beyond The Reasonable Doubt Of A Lunatic has some dark riffs à la Black Sabbath, but also (starting from about 7'44") an accelerating movement that's quite peculiar of Donald (Buck Dharma) Roeser (it could be just a coincidence, though). At about 3'10", The Child Of Volcano has a melodic variation featuring an acoustic guitar that reminded me of Hawkwind, circa Levitation, or even (gasp!) Pink Floyd; as in other tracks on the album, here we have two nicely harmonized guitar leads.

Though obviously recorded in a low budget mode, the album manages to communicate quite well its (mostly tense  - check the lyrics) musical moods (think: High Tide's first album). The arrangements are quite complex, the musicians obviously know each other well, the material was properly rehearsed. I strongly suggest readers to do a Web search and start from there.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2007

CloudsandClocks.net | Jan. 22, 2007