Last time I had the opportunity to review a new Bader Nana album, I was still writing for powerofmetal.dk. Yes, it’s been that long since we’ve heard from this solo artist from Kuwait. I first discovered him with 2011’s “Wormwood”, which I loved. However, it was 2013’s “Anthology” that really took my notice and became one of my favorite albums that year. Now, we finally hear again from Bader Nana in the form of his upcoming album “Devolver”. This album is without a doubt a sign of new ideas and serious maturation.
Like I said, Bader Nana hails from Kuwait, and he is primarily a solo artist. He plays all the instruments on his albums, although some guests make appearances, too. This time around Ramzi Ramman offers some vocals and guitarwork, and Omar Afuni provides some vocals, too. For the most part, though, Bader Nana provides all the composition, instrumentation, vocals, production design, and mastering of the album. He does it all!
Musically, he plays a very modern form of progressive rock that is reminiscent of neo-prog, but also of Porcupine Tree and other heavy prog artists. His music features heavy riffing, sublime keys and synth, and dynamic drumming. His sound is so fresh on each and every album, like a breath of air. Parts of this particular album seem inspired by retro video game music (you will notice that he writes covers of various video game soundtracks). You’ll know it when you hear it. You will hear it mostly on “Mercenaries” and “Desperate Times”.
Bader Nana never makes you feel insecure with his music. You know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he has a plan and he is following it to the letter. Every solo feels like a transition and every song feels laid out with mathematical precision. He just has this way with melody that feels authentic and even original. His music is quite obviously a work of passion from the heart, as he always offers his albums for free. He just wants to share his music with the world! Additionally, he is so ridiculously good at transitions. Whether it’s a keyboard melody that breaks into a guitar solo or a riveting groove that develops into a delicate keyboard arrangement; the transitions are all spot on, just like on his previous albums. Of course, many times all of these things are forming at the same time, creating sublime layers of sound.
Bader Nana especially loves the whirling keyboard progression, usually backed with some sweet drum beat, which builds to some ambitious conclusion. He’s also so very good at pairing his guitars and keys. He crafts keys that weave in and around his tight riffs, but he also writes guitar licks that are accented by the atmospheric keys, too. He really has a knack for making the songs feel complete and whole, like a completed puzzle.
Speaking of songs, this album is chock full of amazing ones. I’m honestly not sure which my favorite is because they are all so good and complement each other perfectly. The album begins with “Mercenaries”, a song that is rich in instrumentation and personality. Another favorite, “I Am Alive” is a glorious 10 minute song with a beautiful melody and chorus that really feels more “sprawling” than it really is. Additionally, I’ve always been a fan of his ballads, and this album does not spare on them or disappoint. “Without a Backward Glance” and “Dust Within Me” are two ballads with great hooks and gorgeous acoustic guitars. Lastly, “Desperate Times” is a fantastic track with tons of heart and character, above and beyond much of what I’ve even heard in this fantastic year of music.
The title track deserves special mention here. It is a massive 23+ minute epic track that features guest vocals and guitars, so the textures and tones are somewhat different from the rest of the album. It gently transitions from heavier portions to delicate soundscapes of bobbing keyboard melodies. There are some Middle Eastern tones here, too, which I haven’t really noticed in his music much before, even though he does hail from there. What I especially like about his longer songs is that they never get dull or wanky. He has a clear progression of melody and climax in mind, and he puts it to work perfectly. The song honestly doesn’t feel as long as it is.
So, Bader Nana has done it again. His inspiration is apparent here, as the album is much more hopeful and lovelier than his past works. He sounds happier, bolder, more eccentric, and he still rocks. You really need to check out this album when it launches on his Bandcamp on 4/10/17. It’ll be free, but I’m sure he’d appreciate a donation.
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