Maazi, Haal, Mustaqbul
By Nadeem F. Paracha
What is “progressive metal?” Those using this ambitious moniker, are they really sure what exactly are they talking about? How many of them are aware of the fact that progressive metal is not a genre that came into being with the formation of acts such as Tool in the ‘90s? Do they know that prog-metal actually emerged in the ‘70s as an off-shoot of what became to be known as progressive-rock/art-rock, which in itself was an evolutionary outcome of late-‘60s psychedelia?
Well, after hearing many of today’s bands (anywhere in the world), claiming to be playing progressive metal, I would conclude that no, I really don’t think most of them (and their fans), have any clue at all in this respect. They talk profoundly about Tool and Dream Theatre. Fine. But I still have to hear them ever talk about prog-metal pioneers like Uriah Heep, Rush or Celtic Frost. Or even prog-rock biggies like ELP, King Crimson, Yes or Jethro Tull. Radiohead and Pink Floyd weren’t the only ones, y’know.
Is that why these “progressive” acts are never able to get the hang of what it takes to truly sound progressive in the rock context? For example, why do they sound no more than arty versions of ubiqutious corporate “nu-metal” acts such as Limp Bizkit or Linkin Park or the dreadful, awful Creed?
It’s about time the Pakistani rock scene produces a rock act ready and able to offer music based on insightful social/political concepts, off-beat rounds and bends … or something at least half as interesting as say a Floyd, a King Crimson or a Rush record? Is that asking for too much?
Chalo, no problem. How about offering some genuine urban anger and angst, ala Sex Pistols, The Clash or Nirvana? EP’s “Irtiqa” actually succeeded in bringing together the complexities of progressive-rock and some punky, grungy angst, only to fall flat with one stupid, stupid slip: Letting Pepsi put its logo on their album cover. An album which in essence actually stands on the opposite end of anything and everything which Pepsi co. as a corporate entity and social event represent. How the fuck am I to take this album seriously and not treat it as a cynical post-modern co-opt act partaken by a multinational?
And don’t give me that bullshit about oh, how are these poor, poor Pakistani rock acts to survive without that wonderful and charitable corporate buck? If they don’t have the balls to do so then they should rather be listening to bands like Vital Signs, Strings, Junoon and even Noori, instead of Tool or Floyd. Sing hollow, sell Polo. Period.
Ah, but then we have EP’s local prog-metal contemporaries like Mizmaar. Didn’t see any Pepsi, Coke or bloody Polo logo on their debut release. But then didn’t much happening with them in the future as well. At least nothing positive. Why?
Not because they don’t have a cola or a candy brand supporting them, but simply because the music is not good enough. It just fails to come together as a coherent concept and just labors on and on not knowing exactly what or where lies its destination.
There is absolutely no doubt about leader and guitarist, Faraz’s talents, nor is their any lack of some exciting riffs and some solid, metallic drum rolls. But these exciting bits and pieces fail to evolve into compositions that can retain any worthwhile listener interest for long. Add to this a lot of truely lame lyrics carried over some awful, awful vocals and … oh, well, just get the fucking picture!
And anyway, Faraz seems just too overwhelmingly fascinated with Steve Vai. In fact, even though he does manage to pull out a number of impressive leads and riffs, however, I believe the hero of the album is not him but his drummer! If you believe that “Irtiqa” was packed with perhaps the most imaginative and apt drum beats and rolls this side of Pakistani rock, you should then listen to the skin-bashing on “Maazi, Haal, Mutaqbil.” Actually, it helps one to bare the overall music’s lost nature and scattered profile, but only just. Because for how long can the listener keep trying to follow the drums and ignore the patchy guitar and/or more so, those awful, awful vocals.
Ironically, however, I would suggest that fans of Pakistani rock music go out and buy this album. If only to applaud a bunch of young men actually making an (albiet ill-fated) attempt to make a gallant musical departure from the tame and trivial ways of the country’s corporate pop scene.