I can’t recall an album where the opening has cried out “prog!” to me in such a way as this one. But this is a prog which winds along regressively as well as progressively with a 70s hard rock fuzz guitar and most intriguingly of all, Middle Eastern mysticism. “Sword of Hakim” takes us into psychedelic excitement.
Blaak Heat are Parisian-American but “The Approach to Al Mu’tasim” takes us to another vista of deserts and bazaars. But then it takes us to other lofty worlds as it places its heavy pitch while creating a scene of dreams from this spaced-out retro rock. It ends in the middle of nowhere after a diversion, which was a pity. After the briefly exotic “Taqsim” comes another Eastern-tinged psychedelic adventure “Ballad of Zeta Brown”. Its galloping pace belies the term “ballad”. The progressive twists and turns recall an upbeat Astra with the Arabic tones of Arkan but this is hard rock not death metal. The hunting “Black Hawk” presses on freely, with the deep hard-hitting tones fusing with the advancing melody. The singer’s echoing vocals come straight of the 1970s. “Mola Mamad Djan” has an Indian feel, and confirmed my suspicion that experimental jazz is another part of Blaak Heat’s repertoire. A deep drum thud signals a haughty instrumental “Tamazgha”, then “The Peace Within”’s retro easternness gives way to a dream world before taking off into a hypnotic rock passage. Finally “Danse Nomade” adds weighty tones, but with that ever present eastern twist in the exotic movement.
It cannot be argued that this album is not adventurous. “Shifting Mirrors” is just that: it takes us to a bewildering number of places via a number of ages and cultures. It’s a multi-coloured work: one where the past meets the present, and east meets west.
(7.5/10 Andrew Doherty)