A whistle-stop tour of rock; Jadal prove themselves to be competent across the whole genre
We all have our own musical biases and I am no different. Whilst reggae, soul, and disco hit me in three different ways, my love for those genres is more visceral and indescribable than any other. Although I am certainly not ‘anti-rock’, it typically takes a lot more for a rock album to connect deeply with me on an emotional level. Whilst Jadal’s debut album does succeed in doing so at numerous points, which is high-praise for someone who would be comparable to the tinman were I at an AC/DC gig, the overall success of the record is the praise it earns itself on a cognitive level. Despite not being a complete connoisseur of the genre, I can identify the vast array of sub-genres on display and the fact that, for the most part, they play each one at a high level is something to be admired. Whether you’re into Muse, Def Leppard or anything in between, this album will certainly have something for you.
“Not only is their unconventionally varied composition of tracks what make them stand out, but also their very essence of being one of the first Arabic rock bands in the region.”
Before I wax lyrical about the successes of the composition by one of the band’s producers and guitarists, Mahmoud Radaideh, I should say that though there are slight criticisms to be made. The album runs out of steam after the wonderful Galbi Metlel Ward, which features a glorious flamenco-rock guitar sound, similar to that of Malcura, as well as passionate protest vocals which accompany the guitar in perfect harmony. After this tenth track on the rollercoaster of rock that is Arabic Rocks, one cannot help but feel a bit exhausted as the energy levels significantly drop. In comparison to the rest of the album Nsit Ahla Thekra and Rah Bakkir are rather melancholic and miserable dirges, whilst Bayya’ El Kastana is a slow-paced emo rock track, almost as if a Jordanian cover band of Linkin Park, Green Day or Blink 182 significantly reduced their BPM. This slight kick in the teeth was seemingly intentional as Jadal were clearly trying to harness the energy of the audience for their final blow-out Al Tobah; a hard-rock track which is the closest the band come, on the album, to flirting with metal as a genre . This is a shame because what could have been a pretty much perfect record ended up leaving me with a sour taste, momentarily forgetting the elation I felt 20 minutes earlier.
That said, I can most certainly forgive Jadal for their over-ambition and for trying to cram as much of their back-catalogue into their first album – a mistake that many debutant artists make. Up until the final third the band prove themselves to be talented, intelligent and daring. They push boundaries by playing songs at such a high-level from different sub-genres and manage to tie them together with such mastery that it massively whets my appetite to hopefully see them play live one day. On numerous levels Jadal clearly do not play by the rules (it is therefore no surprise that Jadal means ‘controversy’ in English). Not only is their unconventionally varied composition of tracks what make them stand out, but also their very essence of being one of the first Arabic rock bands in the region. Singing their own songs in the own Jordanian dialect, rather than relying on covers, implies a sense of boldness that can be heard in the confidence with which they play.
The album’s opening track Ess, begins with lively percussion before an electric guitar solo that could be worthy of being an impossible challenge in the videogame Guitar Hero. The contrast between this and the subsequent track Salma is stark. Originally written for Radaideh’s niece, the song’s floaty sound and high-pitched piano keys make this track worthy of being the sound of the Jordanian summer. Though there is another indie-tune like this one on the album, Nyalek, it doesn’t feature until much later. In the interim Jadal play a catchy rap-rock crossover track in Ya Bani Adam, featuring Palestinian Hip-hop artist DAM, before the grungier and moodier songs Omr Jdid and Ya Ahla O’yoon, as well as perhaps the pièce de résistance of the whole record Min Shaf Habibi. The song is comparable to Black Sabbath’s Solitude on Master of Reality in that its beauty glows amongst the darkness. The track is almost comparable to a rock lullaby. Its beautiful acoustic guitar introduction is then followed by Rami Delshad’s acapella vocals as he powerfully proclaims his sense of longing he has for his loved one.
His beaming vocals also come to fore in El Daraweesh. Though once again slightly abnormal due to its slight ska inflections, the band prove their capacity to transmit powerful emotions to their audience. Before the album eventually runs out of steam, Jadal once again take their listeners on a musical odyssey in a quasi prog-like fashion. La Tloum, which initially was my favourite song on the album begins ever so softly and slowly with a repetitive rhythm. It is nearly 80 seconds until a single lyric is sung. Then before you know it, the percussion is played so fast it sounds like it could not be played by a human. As the song builds up in pace, its cinematic quality increases prior it culminating with sublime electric guitar riffs that are beyond impressive. Not only is ‘impressive’ the appropriate word to describe the guitar riffs but the album as a whole. For their first attempt at an album to hook a rock novice like myself and keep me engaged on more than one level, earns Jadal a tremendous amount of kudos.