Greece may not be as big of a name in the metal scenes as Finland or Norway, but they have a tendency to cultivate a decent amount of metal bands in recent years.
Interestingly, contrasting strongly with the famous “Hellenic Black Metal” scene, BABEL TRIO creates a bit more proggy, buzzy and more closely culturally related Greek metal than its more cold, dark and foreboding scenes for which it’s known. They are a Cretan band featuring heavy psychedelic, yet heavy rock and metal but infused with local Greek folk traditions. Formed in the summer of 2013, audiences of the band’s first gigs didn’t know what to make of the band at first but soon latched on to their signature brand of what they call “Cretal” – an amalgamation of Crete and metal – that really touched local audiences in a meaningful way. The unique sound of Dimitris Sideris on the electric lute, alongside bandmates Trikalero on drums and Michael Avlonitis on bass brought together Greek traditional music and several different rock and metal disciplines such as traditional, classic, jazz and even metal/stoner rock stylings.
A few years after their formation, the band released their first album independently in 2017 aptly titled “Roots Electrified”. They had been building an audience and repertoire slowly, locally for some time through consistent presence in concerts and festivals and gained even more attention with their debut. Only a year later, they released “The Island of Cretal”, solidifying their new genre of “Cretal” music and officially being picked up by label Labyrinth of Thought Records. With their latest album being released this past December of 2020 on the same label, the group has comfortably found their niche and seemed to have really dived into the lore and history of their Grecian folk roots with “The Martyr”. The album is filled with TOOL-like progressive and heavy patterns. They create a music landscape filled with distorted traditional melodies with heavy helpings of psychedelic and progressive elements.
Combing the heaviness that BARONESS and MASTODAN can provide with the oddly hypnotic progressive passages TOOL is famous for, BABEL TRIO have created a mesmerizing mix of heavy, stoner, almost post-rock vibes while leaning more heavily into their exotic sounding stylings – a bit foreign sounding for western ears but most likely sound very traditional among eastern European cultures. Starting with instrumental opener “Birth of the Maryr”, the band begins with a slow, drone-note melody, very OPETH or BLACK SABBATH in nature and ending on an unresolved note, giving the listener a sense of unease by the song’s end. Things are brought more upbeat and faster on “Wings of Stray” with an Egyptian sounding melody very similar to a melody used in THE BANGLES “Walk like an Egyptian”. Singer Sideris uses Eastern vibrato flutters or little vibrato flairs in his voice that gives a very distinct character to the vocals.
They make good use of the slow, droning textures – a specialty the Electric Lute is well-suited for with multiple open strings that ring out and create texture. The album tends to go back and forth between the slow and fast tracks. Slower tracks include “Up In the Sky”, the longest with a bit of a walking beat sounding like “Godzilla” by BLUE OYSTER CULT with a little organ thrown in. Also, the pair of tracks “Black Sea” and “Mother of Death” are both slow almost crawling tracks but the former has a nice, ethereal, quite interlude, exploring a lighter exploration of the electric lute. But before that, “Lady Spring” and the instrumental track “Guillotine” are like freight trains, starting out with a bang and the former lets up to feature the only real lute solo, full of virtuosic tendencies yet still very emotional and making use of a drone note. There is a lot of exploration in these tracks, you can get lost in them like you would a TOOL album. Though, not my particular style, there is enough ingenious texture and instrumental choices that kept me wanting more. Let’s hope they can keep up their album momentum and not keep us waiting too many years like we do for TOOL to hear more new music from BABEL TRIO.
Source: Metal Temple