Anatolia, since its release in 1997, still remains an unrivaled and perfect disc among Heavy Metal albums, not only in Turkey but throughout the world. I am so impressed by this band's unparalleled greatness, their originality, and the sheer power of their music.
Pentagram, now also known as Mezarkabul in Europe and the USA (they still use their own name in Turkey though), began to use a wide array of Anatolian/Middle Eastern instruments such as the darbuka (percussions), ney, baglama (string instrument), and odd cymbals in their music opting to create a unique form of style not only to reflect their origin but also add to the ever-growing realms of Heavy Metal. Myriad textures
are blended into a complex web of compositions with killer hooks, Middle Eastern melodies played on guitars, and an incredibly amazing singer with multiple vocal techniques. Murat Ilkan possesses a unique mid-range and is often compared to the likes of Zak Stevens and Bruce Dickinson. I'd also add Ray Alder and Geoff Tate to the list, but the truth is Murat's voice doesn't really sound like any of them. He has no accent, sings crystal clean vocal melodies, but he can also belt out some stunning high screams, if the songs call for it.
All members contribute to the back-up vocals on this record which gives it a lot of depth. Famous female singer Sertab Erener does some soprano leads on the title track and its Turkish version, but other than that, it's mainly Murat Ilkan and the other four guys. There are thirteen tracks on this CD, three of which are sung in Turkish: "Gunduz Gece" (a metallic rework of a famous Turkish poet/lyricist from centuries ago), the second version of "Anatolia", and the hidden closing track "Sonsuzluk" played entirely on acoustic guitars. The song, however, ends with a lonely coda for electric guitar.
Most songs are mid-paced, but since they're characterized by forceful, 70's Sabbath-like
monumental guitar riffs, the heaviness of this disc could compete with pretty much everything out there. The band pays great attention to lyrics penning them in a rather thought-provoking manner. "1,000 in the Eastland", for instance, deals with the atrocities of war, particularly those in Eastern Turkey which took the lives of thousands of innocent people. Considering that a former member of the band was killed while
serving in the army, this track bears a lot of significance. The pictures in the CD sleeve also complement the dark theme of Anatolia. I particularly enjoy the line that says, "Fighting with hatred feeds the rich men".
"Dark is the Sunlight" has sludgy DOOM METAL riffing with a fantastic bass line from Tarkan Gozubuyuk. The ney instrument really enhances this tune, but this theme is further developed on the band's 2001 release Unspoken. My favourite songs on this disc, although there's not a single filler here, are "Give Me Something to Kill the Pain" for its catchy Middle Eastern hooks, and "Behind the Veil" for the killer vocal melodies. Murat Ilkan's talent really comes through on these tunes, particularly in the former, since it features every aspect of his vocal ability. He sings with clear melodic conviction and experiments with beautiful harmonies.
"Welcome the End" and "On the Run" are the heaviest and most complex songs on the CD. "Welcome..." goes back to the band's earlier speed/thrash metal days and integrates throaty "Suicide!" back-up screams. Fragile acoustics run parallel to the bass guitar before giving way to a soaring guitar solo. The technicality is more prevalant in "On the Run" when the band goes into an improvised instrumental section with pummeling drum work and powerful guitar melodies. There is also an instrumental, "Time", which is just an indication of the band's new-found direction. There is plenty of Anatolian metal riffage engulfed in a powerful guitar theme by Hakan Utangac.
If you can find it, you should pick up Pentagram's live album, Popcular Disari, which was released shortly after Anatolia. Likewise, Unspoken is another essential release that treads on the same musical path as its predecessor Anatolia.
2) 1,000 in the Eastland
3) Dark is the Sunlight
4) Gunduz Gece
5) Stand to Fall
6) Give Me Something to Kill the Pain
7) Welcome the End
9) On the Run
11) Behind the Veil
12) Fall of a Hero