When my brother called and asked me if I had listened to our comrades MYSTIC STORM I told him “no! I’ve been sleeping in megalithic tombs!”. But it was the first thing I played upon returning from my Extremaduran trip. I realised then: I had found another piece to answer the riddle of steel.
Velingor (SCALD) already told us in this interview that the Russian scene is pretty much deflated, with a grown 90s and 00s youth who have lost their interest for metal. Behind remained gems of Cyrillic thrash such as ASPID, KLINIKA and ZHELEZNY POTOK, really aggressive, technical and with lyrics that could rival Pushkina’s, poetess of ARIA*. Well, since 2019 and hailing from St. Petersburg, MYSTIC STORM are blowing a needed wind to this wretched ladya**. To get your head around, their first works include a cover of BATHORY’s “Home of Once Brave” for a collective tribute to Quorthon (here) and a split with ICE WAR, the epic metal project from the Canadian Jo “Steel” Capitalicide (here). Thus, short in scars but with right attitude, Из хаоса древних времен / From the Ancient Chaos is unveiled as the first long of the vocalist Anna, Artyom (bass guitar) and Alexey (drums) alongside Kostya (guitar, synth), who already fought some battles with DISMANTLER’s death.
However, MYSTIC STORM not only summon Stribog’s winds. They grab the listener to the altar and carelessly disembowels it, splattering rock and pagans alike. Both sound and lyrics come from the paths of chain-and-swords thrash, whereby classics like METALLICA’s “The Four Horsemen” and “Phantom Lord”, OVERKILL’s “Fear His Name” and SLAYER’s “Die By The Sword” trod.
Aggressiveness is impregnated with elements of the epic: an ominous start with an arcane black-sabbathical riff, overcharged synths, reverbed howls that pierce through valleys, breakdowns that cause frowned nodding and spine-freezing war horns. In fact, the last one opens “Звон мечей / Clang of Swords”, probably the best track and worthy of its own clip (below). Both its intro and chorus are mosh pit material while the track includes an IMMORTAL’s classic winter arpeggio. No fucks given. There’s no lack of noises of steel in combat and, indeed, samples of this noble material are as present as slasher cuts in MORTICIAN albums. More steel, coming from a forge, opens “Секрет стали / Riddle of Steel”, a track that cannot be understood without the previous one. Its main riff inherits the other’s choir, speeds it up and develops it to the maximum.
Continuing with the bloody oblation, Kostya unleashes groovy riffs of the BOLT THROWER kind (“Обезглавлен / Beheaded”, “Ритуал / Ritual”), eighties SLAYER solos, guitar tones in the line of SUICIDAL ANGELS (“Во власти тёмных сил / In the Throes of Evil”) and SÖLICITÖR’s speeds. Also, the most “egipcian” tones of the (undoubtedly) reviled ICED EARTH are heard in “Вдоль берегов Стигии / Along the Coasts of Stygia”, an instrumental track that foretells the end of the album. The band plays a version as well, DÉTENTE’s “Vultures in the Sky”, being the voice a perfect heir of Dawn Crosby.
Half warrior, half witch, Anna whips the air with her vocal cords, en route to the extremes of the likes of Tim Baker (CIRITH UNGOL). Her harsh stridency is a battle cry, this facet shining while wielding a sword onstage. And, whereas warrior “öughs”, howls and maniacal laughter resound, Artyom and Alexey underpin the aural intensity riding like Deimos and Fobos to the battle. On the other hand, I feel ”Ритуал / Ritual” could have got closer to proto-death by providing more potent double-kicks. Additionally, some tracks suddenly stop, leaving an unquenched thirst.
All this imagery of dust, granite slabs and blood brings back a time when folks realised they could kill each other using metals. Lyrics about swords and sorcery, Conan, cracking mountains, steel bites, murk and so on move the band away from the typical thrash motives (with the exception of the cover and its clear political implications) to exclusively focus on epic fantasy. Even though it remains soaked in testosterone, Anna has arrived in a chariot of chaos to change it, wielding the lightning, subjugating monsters of ancient times.
What else can be said of a first LP that’s more straightforward than a stab in the guts. It’s noticeable that they still have a long path to walk down the rough epic thrash road and to melt down their influences more subtly. Still I say, absolutely convinced, that MYSTIC STORM is the perfect band to play with SCALD in a mini-fest for an ASPID reunion. Shall it happen fucking once and for all.
*Nobody beats the lyricism of Margarita Anatolyevna Pushkina.
**Varangian-slavic drakkar from around the end of 1000 CE.