‘Desert Butterflies’ is the latest sonic masterpiece contrived by Israeli guitar virtuoso Yossi Sassi. It takes the listener on an acoustic roller coaster ride through the orient, meandering through the blues and jazz laden west, all subtly and intricately blended together, a bit like a modern version of Ravi Shankar’s and Yehudi Menuhin’s ‘West Meets East.’
“ I can personally vouch for this, having attended one of their gigs, seeing Muslims, Jews, and Christians holding hands and banging heads together enjoying the music under one common denomination.” – Amesh Perera
A highly acclaimed guitarist of the Israeli-Oriental heavy metal band ‘Orphaned Land’, Sassi carved a legacy through this band, which aimed to unite the troubled, war-torn Middle East through music – a universal indulgence that everyone enjoys regardless of their cast, creed, color, or religion. Orphaned Land’s ‘All is One’ album stands testament to this and you should totally check it out if you haven’t already. I can personally vouch for this, having attended one of their gigs, seeing Muslims, Jews, and Christians holding hands and banging heads together enjoying the music under one common denomination. Sassi in turn has won a multitude of peace prizes for his work with Orphaned Land, before leaving the band to work on his solo career, for which he has received immense recognition as well.
Desert Butterflies, as the name suggests, deals with the concept of expecting what you least expect in terms of compatibility. You wouldn’t usually expect to find butterflies in a desert but guess what, you can find them if you want to! Similarly, the album contains elements of heavy metal molded together with eastern classical music and hints of jazz. Such musical elements wouldn’t normally seem compatible with each other, but Sassi proves that polar opposites can complement each other.
Heavy metal is often misconceived to be ‘just noise’ or a cacophony. Whoever told you this probably hasn’t taken the time to listen to this genre of music and understood the intricate elements heavy metal music boasts. There is a reason that heavy metal is regarded as the illegitimate child of classical music. Sassi demonstrates this on tracks such as Fata Morgana on the album, which combines the bouzouki and the electric guitar to form the main Jewish folk melody of the song, which eventually climaxes with a screaming guitar solo by esteemed guest musician Ron Thal ‘Bumblefoot’ of Guns & Roses. The opening track Orient Sun furthers this harmony of musical elements by featuring an aggressive wailing guitar that bleeds emotion and melody, backed with a subtle yet upbeat eastern rhythm section which ends with a beautiful sitar down stroke. The album also features guest musicians such as Marty Friedman, the former lead guitarist of the Grammy-nominated thrash metal band Megadeth. Songs like Azadi feature belly dance melodies native to the middle east which are played using Sassi’s signature instrument the ‘Bozoukitara.’ This is a hybrid electric guitar and bouzouki that effortlessly bridges the void between heavy metal and eastern classical music, allowing Sassi to shift between acoustic folk parts and face melting eastern themed heavy metal solos. This is a driving factor behind the richness and versatility of the album. Speaking of versatility, songs like Azul showcase how a distorted metal guitar goes hand in hand with an intricately laid out jazzy solo, backed by an upbeat eastern rhythm section. Cocoon features Sassi on vocals and a soaring rock solo that borrows elements from the early British rock movement and is Pink Floyd-like in nature.
This is the review of the album in a nutshell. Words can’t really express the sonic mastery behind it. You will have to listen to it carefully, preferably with a mug of warm coffee, and headphones on, to notice how all the different elements interact and complement each other. This is symbolic to life, which is the embedded message within the album. It relates to how each one of us is different, yet this uniqueness is what makes us beautiful. Collectively, we can achieve greatness, because even though we might be opposites, sometimes opposites attract best.
Be sure to check out Yossi Sassi’s Ted Talks, Oriental Metal pioneers ‘Orphaned Land’, and Sassi’s previous album ‘Melting Clocks’.
01. Orient Sun [00:00]
02. Fata Morgana [04:22]
03. Neo Quest [08:54]
04. Azadi [13:19]
05. Believe [16:32]
06. Desert Butterfly [20:01]
07. Inner Oasis [24:43]
08. Shedding Soul [29:30]
9. Jason’s Butterflies [31:29]
10. Azul [32:54]
11. Cocoon [36:18]
(youtube.com, Yossi Sassi)