Style: Heavy Metal
Release Date: 17 May 2019
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I've been reviewing a lot of music lately that's clearly a throwback to the seventies, but here's an album that's a real throwback to the eighties. Just look at that fabulous cover! It's the sort of original art I tend to buy at sf/f convention art shows nowadays and I'd love to have this on my wall too.
The music enclosed inside is just as quintessentially eighties, right down to the church organ intro to Lake of Necrosis. It's heavy metal on the fast side, not far short of speed metal territory with guitars that roll on like a less vicious Sabbat or maybe Onslaught and a clean vocal from Julia von Krusenstjerna who sounds very much like a young Doro Pesch. Comparisons with Warlock will seem obvious but they're not too accurate, because Mystik play consistently faster. The title track of Hellbound would be a fair comparison though.
I enjoyed the heck out of this, even though there's far too much sibilance on the recording so I had to mess with my equalizer. That's a shame because I love von Krusenstjerna's delivery as much as her voice, because it really sounds like she's relishing every moment of this album, as cheesy as songs about Satan opening the gates to Hell or making sacrifices to the ancient majesty of Death get.
The band follow suit too and I wouldn't be surprised to find that this was recorded live. Some may complain about the production but it's clearly done deliberately. This sounds like one of those muddy eighties production jobs we all remember but it's also clearly done with modern equipment, so I have no doubt that the feel was a very important part of the recording.
However well it was designed to sound eighties, it's the songs that do that job better than anything. Into Oblivion starts things off as the band mean to go on. It's fast, it's powerful, it's catchy and it's cheesy as all get out. If we're able to adapt to the latter, we're in for a treat because every track here plays out with those same credentials and not one of them fails on any level except for that cheese factor. I'd be hard pressed to pick a favourite song. Like a couple of albums this year, it'll be whichever one I happen to be listening to when you ask.
The band look young so I wonder what they grew up listening to. This is as close to a time capsule to 1986 or 1987 as I've heard and there's nothing here to suggest that they didn't just climb out of a DeLorean and jump into a studio without stopping to look around at the future. This is all German heavy/speed metal from the mid eighties, which grew out of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest influences. The intro to Ancient Majesty, not to mention the solos within it, make that Maiden influence obvious but this is generally reminiscent more of German bands like Warlock and Iron Angel, with nothing newer than maybe the earliest Helloween.
While this couldn't be further up my alley if it was recorded intentionally as a birthday present, I have to point out that some will argue that Mystik play at a pretty consistent clip, meaning that songs get a little samey. I have to give them the pace argument but the vocals are high enough in the mix to dominate proceedings whenever von Krusenstjerna is singing and she's able to pluck different melodies out of the air, so I don't buy the samey argument too much. As she takes a back seat in each song, the guitars come out to take over that focus with style and the solos vary too.
Talking of solos, I hope that the band's sound won't change too much given the recent departure of Lo Wickman, one of the two guitarists (the other is Beatrice Karlsson). Rather than replace her, von Krusenstjerna switched up from bass to rhythm guitar, so we have a different dynamic there, on top of an empty slot for a bassist that's being filled with guests for live gigs. I don't know what was Wickman on this album and what was Karlsson, but I hope they'll be able to keep up sounds like the divebombing wasp that is one of the guitars on Hellish Force.
I thought about giving this a 7/10 rating, however much I enjoyed it, but I started writing down my highlight tracks and ended up with the first seven, which is more than anything I've reviewed in 2019 except the Banco album. I know I've heard better albums this year but I'm going to be playing this one to death because I'd be hard pressed to name one that I've enjoyed as much. And Mystik are now at the very top of my 'want to see live' list.