Tunisia’s Carthagods were one of that country’s first exponents of the heavy metal arts, formed as long ago as 1997; however it’s only been within the last five years that the band has become a recording entity, and new album The Monster In Me is their second full length.

The album received a limited release last year, but Record Company travails rather saw the band’s efforts to promote it sawn off at the knees; so here we are in 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, having another go at giving it a push! Some bands have all the luck, or something…

These hiccups and missteps are a genuine tragedy, because in The Monster in Me these sons of Hannibal have created a bona fide, world-devouring monster of a record. Classy symphonic power-prog is the name of the game, and I’m absolutely not exaggerating when I say that Carthagods have catapulted themselves in to that genre’s top division with this release.

Built around the classy vocals of Mahdi Khema (he’s the North African Jorn Lande!) and the crystalline lead playing of Dutchman Timo Somers and Tarak Ben Sassi, the band has come up with seven tracks that, whilst fitting the profile of a world class prog/power metal band faithfully, don’t actually particularly sound like any other of the World leaders of the scene. Symphony X might well be the closest musical relative, but Khema’s soulful delivery (which at times also brings Evergrey‘s Tom Englund to mind), sets them in a division apart from their American cousins.

Best track The Rebirth frankly has it all. Melodic riffs, emotive vocals and stunning lead playing all combine in triumphant, dramatic fashion, the track building to a fabulous climax before ebbing away on the back of gently picked strings and a muted orchestra. It’s such a good track the band throws in a fully orchestrated version at the end of the album, which in turn is so good you won’t be worried that they didn’t come up with a new track to round things out.

Carthagods don’t overplay the ‘Eastern’ card to much – only on that last instrumental track do you get much of a whiff of the orient – preferring to stand and fight for their place on the World atage on the strength of their here and now rather than their heritage. The move pays off in spades, with the result that Carthagods have come up with one of the best prog/power albums of the last few years, let alone 2019 or 2020. Great stuff!

The Monster In Me releases on July 17th