Melechesh at the highlands at Festival Rock al Parque

Saturday, right in the twilight of the day, that’s when Melechesh took the stage at Plaza Scenario in Bogotá. A band known by few metal heads in the tropics, it is safe to say that most of us went there without many expectations. Whatever that was coming our way that day, would be surprising whether it’s good or bad. But Melechesh’s impression in the audience of Rock Al Parque Festival that day was mainly positive.

There is a soft spot for black metal acts among South Americans, a sort of fascination towards the occult, the rebellious side of it. It did not come as a surprise that many people were at least curious about a black metal band coming from Jerusalem, a holy land forJudeo-Christian religions. As many people were present for the Latin American debut of an over twenty year old band that has been known and seen plenty at the Northern Hemisphere, it was a matter of time to see why this Melechesh is in the good grace of metallers in the world. Using Mesopotamian imagery, predominantly a majestic Anzu that served as main logo during their performance, Melechesh started their set with the sounds of zithers to create the ambiance of Mesopotamia right in the Andean high plateau.

The first riffs played by Ashmedi got the attention of those present at Plaza, and it was only a matter of time before many of those who came for the closing band that day decided to engage into it. Melechesh gave it all right from the start, with the powerful voice of Ashmedi giving it all to a fairly well surprised audience. The energy displayed at first was terrific, making those that were not interested in black metal to begin with headbang timidly, while those that embrace more extreme sounds in the metal range went into frantic headbanging, air-guitar playing and a mosh pit or two. A fascinating fact about the mosh pits in Bogota is that they can emerge out of nowhere and innocent goers can get caught in the middle of them without noticing. They emerge from Chaos, but they don’t live long, for it is too much energy spent on such barbaric yet fascinating act of metalheads.

In Melechesh’s setlist, the band took us the audience to the deepest path into Sumerian symbolism and more pagan subjects. With songs like ‘The Pendulum Speaks’, ‘Ladders To Summeria’, and ‘Genies, Sorcerers, and Mesopotamian Nights’ Melechesh showed their deep roots into Mesopotamian culture and music style, not only reflected in the zither-like guitar riffs, but also in a very distinctive drums line that resembles those percussion’s lines played in the convergence between Europe and Asia. Perhaps it’s due to some of the previous members of the band were from Armenian descendance which influenced their music. To some, this drum line sounds a bit like folkloric music from Eastern Europe, more particular to Balkan music, which gave Melechesh an interesting twist for us Latin Americans.
As the show went on, it was clear that Melechesh singer has been struck by the highland curse. If you are well versed in geography you should know that Bogota is located in the highlands of the Andean mountain range, exactly at 2600 meters above sea level, which means air in here is really thin in oxygen. For singer and very active players, things get difficult when it comes to getting enough oxygen to their bodies properly, for they are used to lower lands gigs. Ashmedi started to have signs of a slight lack of oxygen, for his voice lost a bit of its power. If you have ever seen the documentary about Iron Maiden’s tour, you know what I’m talking about. Despite the air issues, Melechesh did not feint to the challenge, they kept going giving the best they could with songs like ‘Multiple Truths’, ‘Sacred Geometry’. It was truly impressive to see them there.

Of course, as with previous acts that day, there were issues with the sound where guitars were saturated yet not over taken by drums. Also, and I believe this was a crucial flaw in the sound, there was a problem with the second microphone, disabling Scorpios from giving the proper backing vocals that songs like ‘Triangular Tattvic Fire’ require, and that aspect went on for the entirety of their performance. After almost an hour of the show, it was time for Melechesh to bid farewell to Colombian lands. From my perspective, this band brings a whole new game to this Colombian scene that is not used to this kind of metal.

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