by Alissa Ordabai
– Senior Columnist –
Self-iteration has always been the biggest sin of rock songwriting. Some bands allow the same tune recur once in a while – rehashed and released under a different title. Switch around a few chords, slightly change the melody, write different lyrics, but everyone can still tell you are aiming to hit the same old spot. Think Jimmy Page’s “Tea for One” reanimating “Since I’ve Been Loving You”. Although six years between the two sound-alikes became a respectable distance for having another go. Less able writers return to one of their lucky finds more frequently. Some — on each album. But no one does it in the space of one EP that only has three songs on it.
Still, you’ve got to admire Awad’s instincts — standout “Noir” is indeed a great prog tune few would resist repeating – inspired, brilliantly written, and translucently clear. A kind of track that takes you back to your first sci-fi story when you were, say, 7 or 10, the one that suddenly lights up the humdrum of daily routine with an otherworldly, yet warmly human glow. The one that gives hope but also sends a reminder that no life can exist without tragedy, a lone star sending a signal from another galaxy – solemn, lucid, noble. Everything comes together organically in one breath – Awad’s voice, his spare guitar parts, the kooky magic of the synth, and even his penchant for Middle Eastern motifs that here sound so unobtrusive they end up sitting perfectly with everything else.
And as if to spoil this revelation the track that follows grasps to capture the same vibe, but comes though as a barren second-hand imitation. Although the main annoyance becomes not self-repetition, but – rather grotesquely – the fret noise that comes though so loud and so relentless, you wonder if it isn’t a deliberate artistic device Awad is employing here. The simple ostinato arpeggio oppresses, the singing sounds forced, and the vile fret noise doesn’t give quarter, keeping you guessing if Awad is being careless, rude, or stand-offishly eccentric.
But he is certainly being neither of those things on the record’s opener “The Poetry of Time”. In fact, the overkill seriousness with which he tries to assemble this behemoth of a track makes you realize he hasn’t chosen the moniker “Amadeus” for nothing — his claims are that grand. But the pompous arrangement, pathos-laden strings, allusions to Middle Eastern heritage and the long-faced tone can’t hide the astonishing poverty of his melodic ideas: the opening theme is primitively childish, the Middle Eastern motif ropes in that generic pop-meets-tradition pattern you hear in street cafs anywhere from Athens to Istanbul to Mumbai, and gluing them all together doesn’t make any of it sound exotic or avant-garde. The only kudos he gets here is for tasteful, elegant production. Take that away and compositional scarcity glares at you in all its nakedness.
It seems that Awad sounds at his best when he journeys within without trying to assert himself. It’s not for nothing that a great music critic had once said that “the more grandiose the demands, the further from grasp is artist’s true self-realization.”
Genre: Prog Rock
1. The Poetry of Time
3. A Song for a Loner
Hardrock Haven rating: 6.6/10