Qayaas-Us Paar Review By (Aman Hassan)
I am just super excited to be reviewing an album that I had been anticipating for a long time. Qayaas's debut album "Us Paar" has been released on all major online retail stores and shall be releasing in Pakistan through a label called "Believe In Yourself" on April 16th. Since I am not residing in Pakistan at the moment I decide to purchase the album through Cd Baby.
The moment the download was complete I started listening to the first track and I can tell you there was not a single moment of disappointment. When I was purchasing the album I knew I would be spending my 10 dollars at the right place.
Qayaas is a Progressive/Alternative Rock outfit residing in Islamabad Pakistan. The musicians in this band are extremely experienced and versatile when it comes to their art. There was absolutely no doubt in my head about the musicianship on this album,which in all honesty is exceptionally good. The band consists of:
Khurram Waqar: Guitars/Arrangements/Production
Salman Rafique: Drums/Percussion
Let's get in to the songs respectively as they are on the album:
1.Us Paar: You know there are very few albums in Pakistan that would actually get you on your feet. Mostly when listeners listen to music in Pakistan they listen to music causally just like they breath,eat,and sleep casually. The difference between good and average music is that if it doesn't capture your attention fully then it's average. Us Paar has nothing average about it because from the first riff and drum hit it truly captivates the listener's ears. "Uss Paar" is the title track of the album and to me it explores the loss of a goal,aim,and love. It portrays the realisation of lost moments,and being completely blinded by the truth of a situation. It really hits a nerve with an edge. The drum work,guitars,bass,and vocals are excellent on the album. I think many people will see Salman's talent on the drums when they hear this song and many others on the album. Salman has only been playing drums for 6 years but in the 6 years he has a lot of chops and phrasing under his belt. Sheryar's multi talent is very prominent; he is not only a good guitar player in the various bands he has played with prior to Qayaas but proves to be a fantastic bass player who can really keep a groove and balance the dynamics of the song. Khurram Waqar and Sarmad Ghafoor need no introduction when it comes to their respective instruments. The guitar work has been done wonderfully on this track. The riffs are very punchy and have a lot of attitude in them,and the solos are not your typical shred offs but rather musical passages. You would find a lot of bluesy type of guitar licks on the solo section of this track which is absolutely excellent. Last but not the least are Umair Jaswal's vocal skills on this track. Absolutely phenomenal! This man's range is absolutely wonderful. The notes he reaches and the way he really works with the dynamics of this song is truly exceptional. Umair definitely has to be one of the most gifted vocalists in the contemporary scene of Pakistan. More about the band's amazing skills as we move along.
2.Inquilab: Inquilaab's teaser was released in the summer of 2010 on "You Tube" and ever since I heard that I had been truly wanting to hear the entire track. I believe the word "Epic" describes this track. This track has a complete "In Your Face Attitude". Inquilab means revolution and the title of the track does complete justice to the song. The song can be taken as a political statement or your own personal revolution. I think it's a perfect track to break out of the vicious cycle of life which consists of a person to be looked down upon,not cared for,ignored,manipulated,threatened,and bashed. Inquilab is a statement to finally take a stand for yourself and whatever you believe in. The track portrays anger,rage,and strength. Umair Jaswal beautifully portrays the lyrical material in the track and really does justice to the feelings being expressed in the track. The drums are fantastic,the bass is really down right meaty,the guitar riffs are phenomenal and the solo on this track is really a let out of energy and emotions. I think if you guys are familiar with bands such as "Dream Theater" you would certainly enjoy this track's arrangement and composition. Many John Petrucci fans will really enjoy the guitar work on this track. Some great chord tones and soaring lead melodies are on this track. If you guys are a fan of "Train Of Thought" and "Awake" of Dream Theater then this track will instantly be one of your favorites on the album. Sarmad Ghafoor and Khurram Waqar really show their exceptional yet melodic guitar chops on this track. This is definitely a head banging number!
3.Halaak: You know generally when you are listening to an album in the genre that Qayaas are in,after two tracks you would think that now there will be a sort of more subtle and soft track. Well this isn't your typical Rock album because Qayaas decided to give its listeners a further cutting edge adrenalin rush. This track is really about the way our politicians have taken advantage of the helplessness,ignorance,and illiteracy of the people in Pakistan. This track truly represents how easily people in the country take away lives of the innocent,manipulate the poor,and portray the "Bad as good and the good as bad". After two "Self Exploration" based tracks it made perfect sense to bring out an issue that is common amongst all classes,religions,and societies of Pakistan. An extremely well executed effort by the band.
4.Shehrezade: I first heard this track as part of some live footage of the band. I instantly fell in love with this track. One of the most interesting things about this track is how well the heavy and soft elements are combined together. Umair Jaswal's vocal range becomes even more prominent on this track. The way he moulds different vocal techniques and moods on this track is truly well embellished. An interesting thing to notice about this track is how well some funk elements have been given to the main riffs of this track while it still keeps its metal and rock elements intact. This track really talks about the beautiful looking yet evil people. When it comes to our people it's generally those deceptive females and hypocritical women. With their elegant beauty but an ugly and dark soul. This song is a very unique effort as for the first time something is being projected from a decent man's perspective. This song will make both genders realize the importance of good values and the goodness of a man. We have heard many songs blaming men and abusing them. But very few where a man has given out an opinion. Well most of the boys in Qayaas are happily married and have given a voice to all those decent men that have been deceived,betrayed,used,and manipulated by the evil and selfish women that are present in our society today. The song's original intentions are towards a woman but can be used for anyone regardless of gender in my opinion. Sadly in our society both men and women make a lot of empty promises and their image of innocence is generally a lie and a big deception. I think Shehrezade really fits all those "Women" and in my opinion "Men" that really take advantage of anyone's pure love and don't even think twice as to how much they are damaging the person. The song has elements of bands such as "Porcupine Tree",Dream Theater,and "Audioslave". Another cutting edge track that really makes you ponder about various personal issues.
5.Pal: My goodness.... When I heard the teaser of this track on "You Tube" the first day I played the 1:36 sample for 5 or 6 hours. Really it struck a nerve in me. Pal is a beautiful portrayal of a woman that is grieving over a lost love. It's really interesting how this is right after "Shehrezade". That track was an expression of a decent man's bitter emotions and this track represents the pure love of a decent woman. In both situations there is sense of frustration,and grief presented in a beautiful and epic manner. This is a beautiful ballad and the chordal progression would really strike a nerve in you. Umair's totally beautiful,subtle,and clean vocal range has been portrayed on this track beautifully. Khurram Waqar's guitar solo is soaring out the perfect notes with immense beauty on this track. I truly believe Qayaas really achieved a perfect musical sound for the feelings of someone who has lost their love,in this case a woman. As I said earlier in "Shehrezade" the song has been written by the artist for a specific situation. I would say the same thing about this track it can be used in various contexts. When musicians are able to awaken certain emotions in a listener then that is a sign of good musicianship;Qayaas have been able to achieve this effortlessly throughout their songs. This song is one of the fine examples of their well balanced and excellent mastery of arrangement,playing,and song writing. This ballad with it's beautiful rhythms,guitar fills,lead sections,beautiful drum patterns,and melodious vocals make it go in my top 10 favorite ballads.
6.Umeed: The flow of subtle and intimate emotions does not stop with "Pal". We move on to "Umeed" which means hope. I think this track can not define an exact meaning because it really is a very personal and intimate track. The listener will take out whatever they can from their own personal perception of it. To me this track is about losing a loved one and basically moving on from there,in the hope of a better future. While the sense of unspoken negativity is running in the person's mind there is also the sense of beautiful memories which he/she cannot forget. At times the person wants to move forward but then something stops them due to certain events in their lives which are absolutely unforgettable. This song truly represents that feeling. Umair's beautiful vocals shine on this track and there is some beautiful acoustic playing by Sarmad Ghafoor that creates the mood. Khurram Waqar's fills and solo section are the icing on the cake. The simple yet dynamic drumming and relaxed bass give this track a wonderful feel. It's another beautiful ballad that cannot go unnoticed.
7.Charkha: This is a beautiful romantic number. It's an extremely well know track amongst the masses in Pakistan. Originally this track was recorded and performed by "Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan" and "Reshma". Khurram Waqar's arrangement of this track is phenomenal. Every instrument is well balanced on this track. The drums and bass really give a new dynamic to this track. The soaring electric guitars by Sarmad and Khurram totally set the mood and the bass totally keeps the track grounded. Umair draws the fine line between "Desi" oriented vocals and contemporary rock vocals in this. I think this has to be one of the best interpretations of a classic track. It's a phenomenal effort. Khurram's incorporation of exotic scales and blues/rock lead sections are very interesting. I personally could have never imagined this track like the way it is presented. Qayaas have been successful in their experiment.
8. Ishq: This track really changes the mood. It's a medium tempo energetic track. The meaning of Ishq is love. The love expressed here can be interpreted by everyone differently.So I'll leave it to the listener as to what they get out of this track. It's an interesting expression of the feeling of love. There is a fine line between happiness/darkness. Both moods on this track are captured really well through the orchestration of the music. Khurram Waqar shows more of his amazing modal guitar playing on this track. You can clearly see throughout the tracks how fantastic his phrasing and sense of note choices is. If you're a fan of bands like "Creed" and "Alter Bridge" then you will certainly enjoy this track.
9.Tere Liye: This is a very soft number once again. I think this is the softest track on the album. "Tere Liye" means "For You". This song is a soft number for all the romantics out there. I think it's a true statement that sometimes the simplest things create really good music. It's not always about technique and instrument madness. This song truly represents that. While it's really simple it still is a very strong track on the album. It has got its own simplistic beauty. Beautiful vocals,wonderful lyrics,simple guitar playing,and great arrangement make it a solid track on the album along with the rest of the songs. Qayaas prove yet again that their catalog is very diverse.
10.Monsoon: Wow! I mean just wow! Such a mesmerising track. It is definitely going to be a listeners favorite. The arrangement is really well done. The lyrics are mystical and will force you to imagine the situation being portrayed through the lyrics. Umair's vocals as strong as ever on this track as well. There are some really cool sections where he sings modal melodies with the guitar fills of Khurram Waqar. The lead sections are beautiful on this track. The rhythm guitars are very well balanced. There are a bunch of changes in the track that keep taking place constantly but they are so well arranged that they seem to effortlessly go by. This track will certainly make you reflect upon a bunch of feelings and emotions. I think if you listen to this with your eyes closed you'll feel you are in another world and will notice the interesting things that this track has to offer. There is so much interesting stuff going on in the arrangement! It's a musicians treat to listen to. The beauty of this track is that a general listener can really take something out from it and enjoy it fully as well as a musician who can notice the little interesting things that really give this track a unique flavor.
11.Pukaar: This is a phenomenal track. This was dedicated to the flood victims in Pakistan during 2010. It was one of the worst natural disasters to take place in a long time. This song beautifully portrays the problems people are facing in the affected area. The track is initially very subtle with pianos ,some interesting percussion by Salman,and clean guitars. When you reach halfway through the track then there is an amazing build with drums,bass,and distorted guitars being added to it. It really gives you the feeling of the flood victims musically. Qayaas use the power of music to express a natural calamity flawlessly.
12.Tanha: This track is the anthem of the fans in many ways;this was the first single from the band. I remember when the video came out for the track I was totally blown away by the amazing musicianship on this. It starts with Umair's clean vocals and groovy bass. After a while it creates a surge of energy with distorted guitars,clean guitar fills,and wonderfully executed drums. "Tanha" can be interpreted in many ways. This is one thing I noticed about the band's song writing that you can take so much out of it and really have various meanings to the lyrics! The best part is that every interpretation relates to the other interpretation one way or the other. Very few bands are able to capture such a feeling with their lyrical context but no problem for Qayaas I guess. This track to me is pretty much a patrioitic track. It represents an individual's feeling towards his/her country,the frustrations within the development of the country,the sense of ignorance towards him/her,the sense of helplessness,and lack of support. Even though there are all these problems the person still is ambitious and thirsty for achievements! It really describes the journey of the person. The end moral is that the individual is totally alone but he/she still has their country with them. It's an uplifting track that will give you a sense of patriotism and would make you want to do something for the country regardless of how many problems you are under. Until you don't solve your problems no one will. Beautiful message by "Qayaas" in this track.
13.Mera Wana: This is the ending number on the record. Qayaas truly keep a balance between the dark and heavy moods and the subtle and emotional moods. This track is certainly dark and heavy! It is based on certain events that have happened in Pakistan due to the "War On Terror". Tons of lives taken,helpless and innocent people dying,and no body questioning the authorities and higher powers. It will also make you question as to why you would remain silent on the brutality of it all. On the other end suicide bombers blowing up innocent people in hotels,restaurants,mosques,and public areas. Innocent causalities whether in the main cities or the areas of drone attacks. It is a wake up call to open your eyes and see what is the real picture behind extremist "Mullahs" and the "War On Terror". This is a very dark and heavy track! Khurram Waqar's playing is intense on this track! Sarmad's rhythms are killer,Sherayar's bass is focused towards the lower ranges and breathes out "Metal". Umair's vocals are extremely aggressive on this track and he covers various ranges on this track and Salman's drumming is extremely smooth and intense. A really hard hitting and energetic ending to the album that leaves you asking for more and at the same time will make you ponder about various things and situations.
"Us Paar" means "The Other Side". I think it truly fits the title.I can certainly say that this record is a concept album in many ways. It portrays an individual's personal feelings and all the things happening in the home land "Pakistan". It is a wake up call for the youth,it's an effort to create a revolution by artistic means. Qayaas has a message in this album! A very important and intense message. The biggest problem with the people of our country is that they live in immense ignorance and never question what they are being fed with or what they are being taught. "Us Paar" is the statement of all those unique individuals of the country that just do not follow things blindly and really get to the bottom reality of a situation be it personal or political/religious. This effort by Qayaas deserves a 10/10. A phenomenal showcase of musicianship and top notch production! Prepare yourself to delve in to Qayaas's debut gem!
I shall be listening to this album for a long long time.