Roxen - Rozen-e-Deewar (2006)

An outstanding debut album has hit the local music market and immediately jumped to the top charts. The band is Roxen and it brings to you some killer grunge pop melodies. A complete band effort lead by a seemingly much trained vocalist Mustafa and three others; Omar, Jawad and a very young Haider, to produce what can be described as follows.

For complete rockers, the title track called 'Rozen-e-Deewar' is full of drive if you understand the concept of the title of the song, the gist of which is, "Himmatein Hein Naee/ Chalnay Ko Mein Tayaar/ Rozen-e-Deewar." Musically, this track makes them the local version of the Foo Fighters. Simple, slashing, and effective, that is. On a similar path to "Rozen-e-Deewar" is "Jag Chor Diya", a passionate number that starts in Punjabi and drifts back and forth into Urdu. The lyrics for the most part are strong and cashing in on the rushed, love-struck youth that listens to it. The melody makes you eager and, I'd argue, towers over everything else on the album. It's a hard rock number and doesn't have over-ambitious quality to it, making it all the more edgy.

More flavour comes in the form of "Aag" that starts off delicately and unplugged. It's a lot less menacing guitaring and more melody which makes it rather hummable. Following the footsteps of this track is morbid ditty "Chaltay Rahay", which is more a combination of pop rock. Both "Aag" and "Chaltay Rahay" show variations in their style and pace, adding charisma to the album.

Then there is "Sapnay", which made waves as soon as the video got out. Directed by Ahmed Ali Butt (EP rapper), "Sapnay" was the song that made everyone stand up and take notice of the band. It's an inspirational track, carrying big drums and grungy guitars. The overall sound of it is untidy, keeping you on your toes with the tempo breaking and then picking again. As rocky as the song may be, the vocals are quite urban. At times the vocalist is on the verge of going coarse but is saved by going smoother than expected the difference between a singer and a vocalist!

Another interesting track is "Yaadein" that Roxen released some two years ago. This track reminds one of Green Day (not in a copying way though). At first it may sound like someone jumped the bandwagon with a very formula type of a song, especially with the new models of alaaps that everyone is trying these days, but if you give it a few listens, its uniqueness begins to show. It is a love-song for all without confining it to a specific category you can safely term it as soft pop, though the album on the whole gives the impression of being Indie.

Just like good things come in small packages, so does this sadistic one "Tau Phir Aao". It's beautifully sung in and has some unusual wordings as the track goes, "Tau Phir Aao/ Mujh Ko Satao/ Tau Phir Aao/ Mujh Ko Rulao." It must be said that Mustafa takes full control of song that is in its essence a rather difficult track. One is mesmerized by his vocals alone, minus the already minimal music accompanying it, forgetting where his alaaps began or end. It is a true piece of abstract art. His passion shows most in this particular number and if you're weepy already then this one's surely going to bring you to tears. "Mujhko Satao" is its rock version, though an unnecessary component of the album, it could perhaps serve well at concerts. Then there's an instrumental version, which totals three versions in all. It is at a faster tempo than the original one and again very heavy. But all in all, one can't complain that these are fillers, as each version has its own standard.

A very exceptional number is called "Lams" and is truly as delicate as its title. It is exceptional also because of its simplicity of not having a story to it, but in fact the wordings being a repetition of the one line, "Aana/ Jana/ Na Kar Deewana," sung in subtle notes, giving it a poetic twist. The art of this song is the fact that even with the song repeating that one line, the music is able to create a feeling of continuation. The music is mellow and each instrument is standing out distinctively.

"Malangi" is mostly instrumental with alaaps echoing at a distance, which becomes the vocalist's strength. Here, it is not a formulaic approach to singing, unlike many new singers who are throwing good measures of this singing technique without understanding what it is. The use of a tabla makes it sound conventional and breaks the possibility of any monotony the grunge may have created. The bass line is strong and as you listen, the tempo increases and then the music does too, though not spoiling an ounce of the orientalism it creates. With this track, you see a new Junoon in Pakistan.

The production of the album isn't up to mark. It's not as sharp and crisp as Noori's "Peeli Patti Aur Raja Jani Ki Gol Dunya" or Overload's clean self-titled debut. However, that could be overlooked with what the album has to offer content wise. There is a coherent thought that one finds within the album. It's neither showy nor pretentious. This is a simple album that works because of its riffs, vocals, and the melody.

Roxen has kept the wordplay simple; morbid and melancholic, angry, and at times sadistic, giving each emotion some space on the album. It is worth what you spend and is not one that you'd keep for just the time being.

Amira Zaidi
The News International, Pakistan