The main benefit of being an amateur music critic is that I get to hear music I probably wouldn’t even think of listening to normally; some of it produced by bands from far flung corners of the world. Ahoora hail from Iran and they are unique in that they are the first and only rock band to have ever performed in their country with vocals. Quite simply, rock music is forbidden in their homeland. Not permitted to send out CDs from their country, ‘Awkward Diary’ is a download only release.
As the title suggests, the album does take a while to get used to. Ashkan Hadavand’s vocals do err a little towards the over-melodramatic; think Matt Bellamy given an odd Eurovision makeover. Guitars rage and are often distorted and the flamboyant keyboards can seem at odds with what is going on around them. Nevertheless, there is much to recommend here.
‘Masks & Balefires’ marries epic rock music with subtle electronica. ‘Alien’ is bizarrely impressive; the frontman’s performance is full of angst yet strangely sensual, whilst the music soars off in all kinds of directions from Eastern textures to Radiohead-esque experimentalism and ‘Closure’ contains enough soul baring to make you wonder how this group used to specialise in progressive metal music. Meanwhile, single ‘Crimson Baby’ is underscored by some extrovert keyboard flourishes and even the instrumental passages are worth a listen as they are packed with enough muscle and juice to match the baroque melodies.
Despite its well-worn influences, ‘Awkward Diary’ stands up on its own two feet as a fine album in its own right. It would be wrong to say this is a special album just because it comes from Iran; even if it had been produced in Europe there’s no doubt it would have received a lot of praise and exposure. Let us hope Ahoora eventually get this exposure and can play with the freedom they deserve.