Abaddon magazine

Music magazine

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Review: Atravan – The Grey Line

Label: Prog Metal Rock Promotion

Date: April 15th, 2021

How familiar are you with the music scene of Iran? Yeah, me neither. Especially with any type of progressive endeavors. When I think about it, the “bestsellers” out of Middle Eastern countries are usually those who base their sound around their native folklore. Granted, they do sound exotic and out of the ordinary for a foreigner, but so did all the Viking, pagan, folk bands that came out of Europe before these genres became standardized. So, it’s likely that with more names emerging from the Middle East it will stop being such a newsflash when a new one comes out.

Anyway, I’m here to write about a band that uses next to none of their local musical cuisine. Atravan does come from Iran, but their sound is very much European in its origin. With a slight hint at the North American progressive scene, but still overly from the old continent.

Namely, “The Grey Line” starts with an obvious allusion to Pink Floyd. The “spacey” aura with effects reminiscent of those used on “The Dark Side of the Moon”, for instance. Elements influenced by Pink Floyd’s creation are also scattered throughout the album, though the majority of the record runs along the progressive metal lines. One could draw parallels and speak of a metallized version of the famed Brits, but it would be false. Apart from the strictly instrumental influences, the Iranians often use Pink Floyd’s ideas for constructing the songs. Atravan is very much independent when it comes to their creative solutions though. Sure, you can find more influences and name more bands that the quintet learned from, but the fact is that in combining them, the Iranians managed a somewhat unusual and distinct sound.

Mostly, it stems from the fact that they combine rock and metal to produce a flow of ups and downs in their tracks. Combo after combo of electric versus acoustic elements and instruments form a specific stream within the album. Also, the insertion of simplified segments and a couple of catchy choruses accentuate the strive for progressive music that is easier to digest. Which is always a big plus in my book, because it shows a group of musicians not solely after showing off their skill. Try, for example “My Wrecked House” or the title track.

Naturally, one cannot go about the progressive business without some serious instrumental mastery. Atravan possesses those too. Still, among the five musicians I would like to point out the vocalist, Mr. Masoud Alishahi, who is, along with his backup singers and a guest star in two tracks, coloring “The Grey Line” beautifully. Perhaps he hasn’t got the widest range or the crystal clear tone. His English is not perfect either. But he more than makes up for it in his delivery. Sensual and melancholic when needed, but rough and coarse when the lyrics demand it. Just like the music itself, the vocals follow the (grey) line of the topics at hand.

And speaking of topics, I couldn’t quite say “The Grey Line” is a concept record, but there is definitely a theme that binds these eight (seven plus a bonus) tracks together. It is somewhat summed up in the title of the record and the artwork depicting a (grey) pupil of an eye. The grey line separating the right from wrong and the good from the bad, both within and without an individual. The images of desperation in contrast with hope, even in the face of an “Uncertain Future”. Horrors of war, failed romance, suffocated nature… It’s all there, yet all the blacks have their white, thus forming “The Grey Line” of observation through the said pupil. Intriguing to think about, for sure.

Anyway, “The Grey Line” lives on its own. The band doesn’t need (nor seeks to find) their exotic origin as a push-up. They are letting their music speak and doing so much more “loudly” than any folk tales from ancient Persia ever could. Nor is there a necessity to take it easy on them because it’s their debut album. Atravan is a surprise that should quickly capture the attention of progressive rock and metal aficionados. Also, considering the record was made five or six years ago, there shouldn’t be long until the follow-up comes out.