MYSTRAS "Empires Vanquished and Dismantled"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Ayloss, restless mind responsible for the brilliance of SPECTRAL LORE, returns to the medieval world for his second go-round with MYSTRAS. This finds him holding fast to the sounds and ideas pioneered on "Castles Conquered and Reclaimed", but refining things a bit more as well as amplifying the folk elements of MYSTRAS.

The new record has more of a Middle Eastern feel to it, which is not unexpected when you realize Ayloss is Grecian and strongly influenced by his Meditteranean origins. The scales and melodies of the ancient Middle Eastern empires permeate both the black metal and folk tracks here. Even in the depths of the most furious tunes like "On the Promises of Angels" and "The Favor of the Saints", one can easily hear those touches. I am reminded of the band OBSEQUIAE in how MYSTRAS approaches integrating medieval and metallic tones.

The production is cleaner than the last album, which is a good thing, but the black metal tracks remain viciously fast, with the lead vocals being a harrowing mix of roars and rasps. A lot of spoken dialogue is also prominent, telling tales of medieval conquest and dissolution. The major problem I have with MYSTRAS is the songs just seem to last longer than they should, wearing out their welcome: "The Fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem" is almost 15 minutes and would have been far better lasting about 8 or 9 minutes instead. This problem is a hold over from the previous album and looks like it's hear to stay.

The folk quotient is upped considerably here, with 4 of 9 tracks being pure folk ranging from the European flavored "The Nightingale" to the 7 and a half minute Arabic drone "Cheragheh Zolmezalem" with female vocals and Turkish instruments to the Germanic "Wie Schandlich Es Ist" with an opera diva singing. It's all very earnest but pretentious, which perhaps is the best description of MYSTRAS itself. This album advances in some ways, regresses in others.