Overload - Overload (2006)

The year was 2005 when a colourful video of "Cursed" hit airwaves, a track put together by a rather unique mix of men who named themselves Overload. "Cursed" highlighted another ace drummer (after Gumby the Great), who can also play guitars. It was all about percussion with superb drumming and whirlwind dhol beats, Moroccan and Egyptian drums, with some menacing guitaring. The track had the impact of a cop vehicle siren making vehicles scatter on a busy highway. The video had no grotesque concept involved, which are becoming something of a norm in Pakistan. Overload's way of communicating with the viewers to announce their arrival was bang on target.

The band which comprises of dhol sensation Pappu Saeen (a superstar hot off the shrines of Punjab), Jhura Saeen, Farhad Humayun (ex–Coven, Noori, and Fuzon ), Sheraz Siddique and Hassan Ameen Mohyeddin are out with their debut album. After listening to "Cursed," the first reaction was they are brilliant. With this appreciation came the question that can they pull this brilliance off on a whole album?

The music industry is roaring with talent and sweeping into the Pakistani consciousness: there are Abrar and Jawad for the masses, Ali Zafar and Atif Aslam for teenyboppers, Junoon (now Ali Azmat and Salman Ahmed), Noori, EP for the rocking generation X, but we haven't had instrumental albums at all, except for Aamir Zaki who pulled a disappearance act after the one off "Signature." That was more than a decade ago. So Overload's self–named debut is a new beginning for Pakistani pop.

The opening track "Only (Ek Taal)" kicks off with a striking use of dhols and drums with tranquil bass lines that add a melancholic twinge to percussion frenzy. After the first two minutes, the dhol beat picks up, complemented by light keyboards. Dhols and drums blend without a hitch. "Only" has a mysterious appeal to it. The imagery that springs to mind is of a man walking in a dark alley, one doesn't know who he is or what he's going to do. It has the suspense of Mission Impossible meets Alias soundtracks. It's a crackling opener.

An unparalleled amalgamation of Western instruments meeting local and Moroccan and Egyptian dhols follows. It's an electrifying and well–crafted sound, matching up to all the hype Overload have generated.

Every song on and by Overload has its own identity. "Days Gone By" has a morbid feel to it. There are no lead guitars in this track. But, one doesn't miss them at all. Sameer Ahmed does an astounding job with bass, Pappu Saeen and Jhura Saeen are at home with lead and rhythm dhols (if the guitar can lead, why not dhols?), percussion man Hassan gels well with the gang and Sheraz is mighty with his piano.

"Teen Taal" with its pessimistic rawness reminds one of all that is wrong and spiteful with us as individuals and collectively as a society. The somber beats with the unrelenting piano make it a dynamic track. The dhols take a backseat, while Hassan on tabla gives it a quiet flavour. "Teen Taal" has gray shades of human darkness and negativity. "Storm" and "Wearing Out" are both decent numbers. "Storm" reminds one of a hurricane on the block. But it's a welcome one. It slows down and picks up pace in perfect tempos. "Wearing Out" is a rock beat – mandatory for every rock lover out there – with an eastern ethos coming from the dhol. The only disappointment is "Dhamaal." It is nothing too great to write home about. It's an average track with dhols beating to no end. It's always nicer when a crescendo is reached gradually. Beginning with a bang sounds very amateurish. But the album itself is tremendously sophisticated.

Overload are a breath of fresh air in the expanding rock world within Pakistani pop. Most bands these days sound the same, and what's more, even the lyrics are similar. It comes as a relief to not have mundane repetitive lyrics telling you that life is bad and being cynical for the sake of it. Let's face it , the last great rock album was Ali Azmat's "Social Circus." Overload have now, given Pakistani music a new genre.

There is only one song (with lyrics) on the album, sung by (surprise, surprise) Fuzon front man Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan. "Mahi" does not disappoint. Shafqat has composed the melody, written the lyrics, and sung them with the precision that only belongs to a trained voice. Shafqat's voice with its sonorous undertone intertwining caressingly around some excellent guitaring by Sarmad Ghafoor make "Mahi" the next best rock tune since Fuzon's excellent "Ankhiyan." It has hit stamped all over it and proves that Shafqat is the most versatile vocalist around today. Remember how he went crazy berserk with Rola's "Yaad Tau Aayengay Hum?"

The production of Overload surpasses expectations. It's crisp, clean and strikes like a lightning bolt. A lot of talented musicians get a chance to perform like never before. Sameer Ahmed proves that bass can be the backbone of a song. Rungg lead guitarist Sarmad Ghafoor too plays well taking a comfortable back seat to make his guitars part of Overload's percussion project and shares producer credits with Farhad. Hassan Mohyeddin, Sheraz Siddique – make their mark. Pappu and Jhura Saeen are dhol wallas of this nation and need no formal introduction.

Overload is an eccentric yet solid debut. And the sameness that has taken over the music scene will ensure that they make their mark. If Mekaal Hasan can develop a following, so can Overload. Pakistani pop listeners are in the mood for change.

Maheen Sabeeh
The News International, Pakistan