Being a reviewer for a progressive rock magazine gives me the opportunity to get acquainted with music from all over the world. Sometimes I must review music recorded and produced with all the right intentions, but all the same it doesn't appeal to me. At other times I listen to music that hits me right in the face. Such an album was Karma Sown by Iris Divine (2015, see review), an album I rewarded with the maximum rate of five stars. As a result of this review I was asked to write one for another American outfit called Shumaun. This band was initiated by vocalist, guitarist and keyboard player Farhad Hossain, a former member of Iris Divine. Beside Hossain, Shumaun consist of guitarist Tyler Kim and bassist Jose Mora. Their original drummer Tanvir Tomal, who's also a former member of Iris Divine, had to leave the band due to personal obligations but he returned in order to perform live after the recordings of this eponymous debut album. On the album the credits for drums go to Mark Zonder (ex-Fates Warning), Travis Orbin (Periphery, Darkest Hour) and Waqar Khan from Junoon, one of the most successful bands in Southeast Asia.
When Farhad Hossain sent me the album, he wondered if I would rate this album equally high as the one of Iris Devine. Could it get another five stars or would it face eternal darkness, tucked away in a box in the attic? Well, it turned out that Shumaun will get a special place in my collection as it certainly can compete with Karma Sown. It's indeed an album of an equally high standard, filled with amazing songs and high energetic playing. Take for instance the album's opener A New Revolution, which contains almost six minutes of raw power, great vocals and a tremendous bass sound that continues throughout the album. Miracles Of Yesterday even takes it a step further: progressive metal with catchy vocals, nice twists and a subtle eastern influenced part in the middle section. Travis Orbin's drums lift the song to an even higher level.
You And I Will Change The World is a more moderate piece, a modern sounding song with vocals that are easy to listen to. A great riff and a fine keyboard and piano section perfectly balance the music. Keep It Together is still very powerful, but it shows the more emotional side of Shumaun. It's strongly based on keyboards and bass; this composition builds a bridge between Shumaun's prog metal and the more accessible moderate rock and AOR. Next song We Always Disappear has the same atmosphere, but this time the keyboards have been replaced by gentle guitar passages that shift the musical style in the direction of progressive rock rather than metal. When It's Our Turn shows that they not only stick to the heavy side of music. Anathema is clearly one of the influences for this song, but the powerful middle-section returns to their own style.
Mid-tempo and strong bass parts with hints of fusion are the keywords as we listen to The Drop. Smooth progressive rock singing is another strong element of this song. Ambrosia is again a fine up-tempo piece with strong guitar and drums playing plus the already mentioned great bass sound. The following piece Floods has a slower pace, but it keeps the intense atmosphere that continues throughout. The instrumental track Sunrise At Midnight adds eastern elements to the composition, thus creating a special sound. This certainly is one of the highlights of this album despite the fact that vocals are absent. The epic is called The Dream Of The Sleeper, a brilliant composition that combines eastern and western music. The percussion in the style of the Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu is combined with prog metal. Harsh vocals go together with melodic vocal lines which keep the song very interesting over the solid base of drums and bass. The final track is Numbers. It differs from the rest, but is still very diverse. 'East and west' meet again with parts of spoken words. The piano, sitar, tabla and Farad's vocals really impress.
Shumaun have recorded a perfect debut album that might appeal to a large audience. The music is impressive and pretty close to brilliant. I'm very glad this album came my way; I wouldn't have missed it. Next step: come to Europe and play some festivals like Progpower Europe!
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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