Osiris 1982 / Pharaway Sounds 2015
Treasure island’s precious gems: prog rock from the Persian Gulf brings the thrill of an adventure.
A notion of a rock group in an Islamic country may seem absurd, but this band from Bahrain have been defying such a misconception for decades now. Mohamed and Nabil Alsadeqi got hooked on the groove in 1969, although it took the brothers until 1980, when they returned home after studies in the U.S. and the U.K., to form an ensemble that still play today. Yet their self-titled debut, laid down in the country’s only 8-track studio and pressed privately in Philippines, remains a sort of buried treasure deserving much wider acclaim – for its music, not the provenance.
With fewer Eastern motifs than in many a Western artist’s repertoire, the band’s classical bent is obvious on “Paradox In A Major” and “Fantasy” which serve as a canvas for two keyboards and twin guitars whose sweep creates a dramatic scope – so palpable in its stereo-panning – but it’s surprisingly anchored with ever-shifting dance patterns. That’s why, while conjuring up exotic images and refracting them through symphonic sensibility, epic “Sailor On The Seas Of Fate,” where Nabil’s drums and Mohamed’s acoustic strum create vibrant tension, harbors playful riffs, and Isa Janahi’s soulful voice makes this tight atmosphere breathe. Yet if “Embers Of A Flame” rocks the sand and “A Story Of Love” embraces fusion, it’s impossible not to sense the hot and humid air of Bahrain’s shores in “Struggle To Survive” as synthesizers engage in a romantic race and a six-string seamlessly stitches funk to baroque, leaving it to bass to rumble through “Atmun” and pin it down to terra firma.
An analog of oasis, “Osiris” is a refreshing album, nicely textured and living out of time and certainly existing out of its era. A delightful one.