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Black Cats : Next Level - ”Scream of the Cats”

Caltex Records
2006 (1384)

BLACK CATS has once again been recruiting following the dramatic leave of Kamran & Hooman back in 2003! Shahbal Shabpareh was quick to put together a new constellation with three new vocalists, Kamyar, Raman (if I recall the name correctly) and a kitten by the name of Firoozeh who happened to be an ex-member of the transition constellation of (the 1st) Silhouettt. Three young vocalists of whom only Kamyar remained in the band after the launch in Christmas 2003 and the performance in Mahasti’s ”HamisheSabz”! Despite the new sudden departures the newly adopted catch-phrase of ”Next Level” was kept by the group name but a time gap was caused till the actual release of the new album entitled ”Scream of the Cats”. Another significant addition to the Black Cats is Schubert Avakian, the renowned composer/arranger who has taken on the main responsibility for the music composed and arranged on ”Scream of the Cats”. Others who have contributed to the collection are Shahbal Shabpareh, Babak Roozbeh, Shahram Shabpareh, Jaklin Muns, Kamyar Ahmadzadeh and last but not least Homayoon Hoshyarnejad. ”Scream of the Cats” features 8 audio tracks along with 4 music-videos, released on Caltex Records.

”Scream of the Cats” opens with a PIANO-introduced Euro-TECHNO fare called ”Faryaad”. The song barely manages to escape an ”obsolete” mark with its style and sound! Schubert Avakian was the man who coined the term ”Persian techno” back in the 90’s and was one of the leading producers of Euro-oriented DANCE music in the past decade. However now, after a decade, not much of its freshness is left, since it has not been updated adequately! And the SAFRI DUO influences don’t extend further than the video, unfortunately!

Safar Ali goes to Jamaica!? Well at least in Black Cats’ ”Joone Khodet”! THE Dance Hall ”riddim” of 2004, the COOLIE DANCE RIDIDM (used by Nina Sky and Pittbul among many) meets a hook most likely inspired by the pick-up tune with an almost identical flow and similar lyrics sang by Nosratollah Vahdat’s nearly 50 year old cinematic persona, the peasant Safar Ali (”Aay khanoom kojaa miri, che ghade baa naaz miri! Ye kami sabr bekon, maro baa khod bebari” …”) half a century ago! This is a catchy and uplifting song perfect for summer night parties! …I can almost see Safar Ali being mesmerised by the mighty BADONKADONKS of Kingston Town! I know I would!!*LOL*!

Next comes an energetic POP song a la Shabpareh. This song is familiar to those ears who have heard the updated sound on Shahram Shabpareh’s latest album arranged by none other than Schubert Avakian! ”Majnoon” enjoys Kamyar’s SOUL/FUNK touch to a certain extent.

The pseudo-PUNJABI sound a la ARASH colours Black Cats’ ”Nemikhaamet”! This is one of the more relatively experimental features of the album, catchy!

An Afro-Caribbean flavoured RETRO-POP song takes us back to the 70’s, on the glittery scenes of the pioneering TALK-SHOWS! ”Parie Aasemooni” is a simple yet charming tune.

While we are back in the 70’s lets stay for a while and revive the OLD-SCHOOL LATIN-inspired Shabpareh style and sound with ”Leila” pirouetting her war around the band!

If there is anything that can represent a ”Next Level” and the new vocalist’s individuality on this album its the SOUL BALLAD ”Aaghebat” which despite its innovation and GREAT performance lacks that element of ”Iranianisation” of the style! An element needed to appeal to a broader Iranian audience!

”Los Angeles” is a FUNKy SOUL track in mainly English, another song that reflects the personal preference and true orientation of Kamyar’s vocal style! The song is FRESH in its approach and lyrically clever, but just like the previous track too OFF-BEAT to be a HIT in an Iranian market! An injection of R&B juice could have shaken this cocktail to a massive floor filler!

the DVD features:

- Faryaad
- Nemikhaamet
- Aaghebat
- Majnoon

Black Cats is a collective that has been reshuffled and reinvented times and times again through decades. However this is the first constellation that just comes across as odd and uneven in many aspects! Three elements don’t quite add up in the new equation; the commercial image, the musical ambition and the vocal performance! The age difference in the band is growing with each constellation and doesn’t fully back up the BOSOM BUDDY PACK-image and style the group aims to project! Musically, though the album officially aims at a “next level” its ambition stays on a mere update of the old Black Cats sound combined with a twist of generic POP, topped with a voice that serves as a “Cadillac pulling a chariot“! ”Scream of the Cats” is not really that different from the previous Black Cats’ albums, if you go through the past albums you’ll find counterparts to the styles presented here of an almost equal quality but NOT equal potential! The main difference lies instead in its commercial potential rooted in the performance and image of the group. Black Cats is no longer fronted by two poster-boys with enough potential to disguise and sell good as great to infatuated TEENS! Kamyar is a strong SOUL/JAZZ voice that just screams to unfold wings and break free from the small cage of a commercial TEEN-POP band (and most likely will so in near feature), and his COOL-CAT persona is not “heartthrob” enough to secure a solid commercial position and popularity by the demographic target at aim here! There are also other factors that contribute to the commercial weakness of this album; a DVD with only four music-videos and a cover and package design that is of an incredibly low quality, even for the Iranian industry!! All things considered ”Scream of the Cats” relies, whether premeditatedly or circumstantially, more on the individual tastes in the Iranian market than on a safe commercial mass-appeal!

The Black Cats are definitely on the NEXT LEVEL, …but whether on the way UP or DOWN only time will tell!!

Artistic Performance: ++
Artistic Ambition: +
Commercial Potential: ++
Technical Quality: ++
Aesthetic Presentation: ---
Ethical Adherence: ++
[ +++ > --- ]

Review by: Pourya E.

Reviews described herein are mere opinions, and must be construed in that manner only! In other words they are not absolute!