Another delayed review, this one because the CD fell down the back of my in/out tray system (not unusual given how messy my desk is) and I only found it again the other day. It’s also another of those ones I regret missing because it’s so damn good.
Out now (released on May 13th) through Svart Records, Shifting Mirrors is a continuation of the works of Blaak Heat Shujaa. The band renamed themselves when they moved from Paris to LA in 2012, taking more Eastern influences into their sound at the same time.
Mixing a prog-like background with riffs that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bollywood film, it’s surprising to find that this occasionally results in a sound which we often associate more with certain parts of the US. There’s a definite dusty, desert-y feel to the album and a couple of the tracks could pass for rockier versions of Ennio Morricone classics. Get about three minutes through “Ballad of Zeta Brown”, for instance and you have that horse-riding rhythm and steel guitar which conjures up images of Clint Eastwood with a rug wrapped round his shoulders.
The album obviously aims for more of an Eastern image, though – I just find it interesting how the two global opposites seem to overlap in style so frequently. “Sword of Hakim” and “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim” are obviously meant to provoke thoughts of something closer to the Arabian Nights than Tombstone. I think it’s the “twangy” sound of some of the Eastern instruments which are used. Depending on the rhythm, they can come across as if they’re playing music from a completely different background.
On the whole, lyrics are underplayed and Shifting Mirrors could almost pass as an instrumental album – it’s a great piece of atmospheric work. You can put it on in the background while you’re doing other things (the long musical passage helps, and the fact that lyrics are often embedded amongst the music rather than overlaid on top), or you can get quite wrapped up and lost in it. The best classical music evokes images in the mind of the listener and it’s been a long time since I found the same result being achieved by a rock album. Blaak Heat have very much managed this.
Some of the tracks are quite ethereal, whereas others are more rocky such as “Black Hawk”, or simply slow and heavy like “Tamazgha”. The one thing that ties them all together, though, is quality.
Shifting Mirrors is a unique album, and a very clever one. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would from the blurb that arrived with is and I’d definitely recommend giving it a listen.