The Great Game pride themselves on their diverse mixing of various styles. Rock, Latin music, jazz, folk punk, heavy metal, and just about anything else you can think of is mixed together here on their self-titled debut, essentially appropriating anything that can be mixed with lyrics that reflect the world at large. The rhythm from the opening moments is a complex surging of upbeat sound that is meant to bring the world together. Attempting to be a voice for all of humanity, they generously attempt to appeal to all kinds of people everywhere. Of course, from certain perspectives this will be the most atrocious thing ever, and I have to agree that this attempt at a “new world fusion” is the worst possible idea that can ever exist, even if it does present a solid groove now and then.
This is one of those concepts that music fans seem to eat up like sugar-covered dirt. Essentially, The Great Game are attempting to create a style where anything goes with little to no discretion. In an interview on the band’s website, the band’s frontman, Mounzer Sarraf, proudly states that he allows all of the musicians that he collaborates with to do as they please, mixing whatever they feel works with few limitations. It’s meant to please everyone at least a little, focusing on the multicultural view that many people adore without any thought of its implications, be it Coca-Cola logos in poor African villages that barely have water or the crumbling culture that plagues much of the world but Westerners mistake as advancement.
The Great Game can suddenly turn their music towards a mixture of reggae and ska with rough punk vocals followed by saxophone, and yet, in another minute away from this style, it will take on a jazzy rock sound. What ends up happening is that—like most humans—you’re bound to find something you do not like that appears alongside of something that you do happen to enjoy. In the end, no one ends up liking it all—they only claim to until they are probed deeper to really think about what does or doesn’t call to them. Our ability of discernment is our greatest gift, and music such as this—and the ideology that gave birth to it—wishes to eradicate our ability to recognize what develops separation, as it fully focuses on this erroneous concept of complete unity. Instead, what you get is a jazz player trying to play hard rock, and perhaps someone who is more familiar with a mathematically rhythmic tribal style attempting to play jazz.
Certainly, it is obvious that everyone involved in The Great Game are capable musicians, but they simply have the wrong idea about the limitations of diversity. Songs like “And the Blind May Lead the Way” have screamed vocals over top of jazz orchestration and a basic hard rock mentality. I can imagine the main curator is the kind of person that attempts to get along a bit with everyone, so he never goes really deep into any particular territory.
“Hungarian Dream” is the highlight of the album—ironically, because it is about a particular country and musically reflects their traditional folk. Some moments certainly—for better or for worse—recall Faith No More and—I shudder to even say it—System of a Down, attempting to grab hold of the mainstream rock crowd. Being that the music is so diverse, almost anyone could find a moment or two that they enjoy in this album, but this music hasn’t really been composed for anyone—simply everyone—which in a way means no one because this concept of everyone is a myth. We all live in very separate worlds, even though we are sharing just one, and I will continue to argue that this is a good thing. At the least, it means something a bit more when music is personal and reflects a very individualistic approach of seeing the world. Instead, this album only attempts to satisfy everyone, something I believe any respectable person couldn’t care less about.
03) The Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma
06) El Hechizo de Hoy
07) Poetry in Motion
08) Hungarian Dream
09) Pax Romana
10) And the Blind Man Lead the Way
11) Elemental Raven Storm
12) Slave Magic
13) The Great Game