Merkabah EP

Written by: PP on 09/01/2016 16:24:06

It's the time of the year to go through our backlog of review submissions and decide which ones will make the cut. One of them is the five-track debut EP "Merkabah" by the Århus, Denmark-based trio Puja, who play a progressively oriented, experimentalist brand of rock that comes across as a midpoint between art rock masterminds Tool and picturesque instrumental rock landscaper artists Scale The Summit. An all-instrumental effort, the record is characterized by its desire to embed Middle Eastern cultural references into a spacey musical landscape that's keen on looped guitar effects and intricately built compositions.

The latter takes you from quiet, tranquil segments into voluminous, almost grandiose sections of almost metallic riffage, purposefully elevated to the high-end realm of the soundscape to create a forceful, albeit still intellectual effect. Perhaps the best example is "Beduin Moon", which echoes the intellectualism of Tool through its eerie sense of mystery while embedding Middle Eastern cultural references into the instrumental landscape to create an intriguing expression overall. "Pharaoh", on the other hand, sounds like Santana decided to have a go at writing a Lebanese progressive rock song, which isn't all that strange in practice despite sounding so on paper. Indeed, Spanish guitar playing seems to appear in even strength with Tool style progressive intricacies, as do quieter near-acoustic plucked passages. Here, Don Caballero is a good reference point when it comes to similar all-instrumental groups.

But, and this goes for nearly all instrumental bands, there's a catch. Without vocals, there's only so far the expression can go on its own. The guitar arrangements, while clever in their cultural references and fully-formed in terms of progressive landscapes, are interesting on their own but don't provide enough flair to pack the extra punch a vocalist would do. It's extremely rare for instrumental-only releases to do just that, and one of the few from recent years has been Scale The Summit's "Carving Desert Canyons" which blows the listener away on first listen. That's not exactly the case here while "Merkabah" is certainly a decent effort. Just one question: what's with the "Raining Blood" references at the beginning of "Estambul"?

Download: Beduin Moon, Estambul
For the fans of: Tool, Scale The Summit, Santana, Don Caballero, Pelican
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.04.2015

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