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Derev - Leap of Faith

  by Adrian Janes

published: 29 / 7 / 2021

Derev - Leap of Faith
Label: Derev Music
Format: CD


Debut from Canadian progressive band with European and Middle Eastern roots Derev is both musicianly and heartfelt

Based in Toronto, but with members of Armenian, Syrian and Italian heritage, the promise of a group mixing the tropes of prog with the scales of the Middle East is intriguing. In the event, ‘Leap of Faith’ doesn’t truly break the mould, but it does enough to make a dent. The solemn reverbed guitar of ‘Tunnel Vision’ soon speeds up and becomes the typically staccato riff and pounding drums of a certain strain of heavy metal, as it morphs into ‘Turab’. The song is lined with pain, born from a world of violence and tyranny. Given the band’s background, with lyrics like “Another martyr grants his soul/From hero to ashes”, it’s hard to avoid thinking of the war in Syria, or the disappointed hopes of the Arab Spring: “For every light that shines the darkness/A shadow is reborn”. The music mirrors this contrast, slipping from aural assault to subtle strings and back again. Although singer Adel Saflou does not appear to be a fully-fledged band member, it’s the fervour and pathos he injects into the words of guitarist Armando Bablanian and drummer Michel Karakach that lift this album above the average. (For some reason the record is billed as an EP, although it’s just a little shy of 40 minutes.) ‘Futile’ begins with what is presumably a sample (uncredited), a man lamenting that his efforts to slow the headlong adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have come to nothing. The song itself, propelled by drumming that’s both muscular and dexterous, is concerned with the even wider target of human over-reliance on technology. There’s much more at stake than the trivial payments to musicians from the likes of Spotify embedded in the line “Your fate lies in what you create”. A slow interlude reflects the regret that sits alongside the rage. The vein of metal in Derev’s music is played as well as most in the genre, but ‘Delayed’ signals something of a stylistic turn for the rest of the record. It’s set off by a bubbling guitar and a lighter touch on the drums, and is one of the most melodic tracks of all, brought out in some rich vocal harmonies. In some respects (the technical ability and the combination of metal and melody) Queen come to mind, but Derev’s harmonies are thankfully devoid of their shrillness. As already suggested, amongst the conventionalities of rock the Middle Eastern influence is hard to detect, but there is a fine lyrical guitar solo here that does suggest some slight Arabic inflections. A similar comparative restraint marks ‘Slipping Down Again’, a gentle guitar intro succeeded by unobtrusive bass and drums, and a later string interlude. Lyrically it begins like a relative of ‘Delayed’, depicting someone “impervious to modern ways”, but somehow turns into a song of betrayal: “I pulled you far/Turning your heart against the one/Who knew you”. Incoherent as this seems, Saflou’s vocal and the long guitar coda make it at least emotionally convincing. Bablanian’s versatility is shown once more on ‘Ghost of Guilt’, his guitar striking a light, fluid tone at first. The song’s imagery of “Streets diminished to battlefields” seems to link back to ‘Turab’, and the hurt and anger lacing metallic guitar and battered kick-drum mount alongside the words, to a bitter culmination and condemnation: “So come here and take it/Shadows of the hate you orchestrated”. Derev’s technical chops are clear, even on this debut, but in the progressive field this quality can almost be taken as basic. What will perhaps make them stand out is a lyrical seriousness well channelled by the singing.

Track Listing:-
1 Tunnel Vision
2 Turab
3 Futile
4 Delayed
5 Slipping Down Again
6 Ghost of Guilt

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