MYSTRAS (GRE) – Empires vanquished and dismantled, 2021 🇬🇧
Atmospheric black metal has one flaw, it often lacks originality. This is, by no means, an inherent characteristic of the genre but more of an unhealthy habit that many bands have developed over the years. Fortunately, every so often some projects come along with a new way of making music, such as the case of MYSTRAS, another black metal project by Ayloss, the mastermind behind SPECTRAL LORE, and this is his new album: Empires vanquished and dismantled.
The album’s proposal shows no fear towards venturing into lands beyond the atmospheric black metal sound that characterizes its sound. In fact, one of the first elements that catch our attention is how it intercalates heavier and folk-driven songs. For example, the album starts with the folk introduction «The nightingale» before giving the stage to «On the promise of angels«, a really consistent black metal song.
Nevertheless, this doesn´t mean that on this record black metal and folk are seen as two separate elements without connection; nothing could be further from the truth as Ayloss mixes in some elements of the first one into the second, just as we can hear on the close up for the album: «In the company of heretics«. And they are a great help to avoid monotony on songs that, in any other way and because of their length, could have been on the verge of being repetitive. This, obviously, doesn’t happen and we are able to enjoy very dynamic songs with tremendously powerful riffs that, at the same time, are capable of building an atmosphere.
Keeping the folk subject, we must give a shoutout to the song «Cheragheh Zolmezalem (Opposition’s Fire)«. Clocking beyond the seven minutes and a half, this is a song that mixes several types of rhythms alongside all classes of vocals to create one of the true peaks of the album, without the need for abrasive guitars or pummeling drums. In any case, Ayloss shows us that he is also a master in the use of these elements. And the more aggressive songs are a good proof of that, like «The fall of the kingdom of Jerusalem» which starts off by hitting us with the sound of raging guitars.
Another aspect worth mentioning is the change in production. I am well aware that this feature is a central topic for debates about this type of music, and I tend to enjoy a rawer production, but I must admit that Empires vanquished and dismantled benefits from an improvement in production when compared to the debut of MYSTRAS, Castles conquered and reclaimed. On that first album, something felt odd, as if a barrier was keeping the listener away from the music, but now, only a year later, we can really vibrate to the music, for it is a record that makes us tremble while keeping a black metal touch in the production.
We mustn’t leave either, without discussing the lyrics of this album. MYSTRAS comes back with a record full of symbology that uses tales of medieval history to criticize current-day problems such as the appropriation of labor, religion, or imperialism. Religion and imperialism are painted through the history of the crusades, their start, and the fall of Jerusalem; on the other side, «To the builders!» is praise to those who lost their lives for the creation of religious buildings. Examples as these can be found all throughout the album and they elevate the quality of it thanks to the insightful and elaborated lyrics.
To sum up, Empires vanquished and dismantled is a new groundbreaking record by Ayloss/MYSTRAS and guest musicians from LÜÜP, ART OF SIMPLICITY, NEDA y SPIDER OF PNYX. A new and strong approach that, in my opinion, bears little similarities to anything we have listened to in 2021. From its sharp lyrics to its high musical rank, this record is a lesson in music and ethics completely worth several spins.