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sabato 3 ottobre 2020

Mystras - Castles Conquered and Reclaimed

#FOR FANS OF: Medieval Black
Two thousand twenty is being undoubtedly a brilliant year for the Greek metal scene, particularly in the black field, with excellent albums coming one after another. Sometimes these new works are opuses from veteran bands and other times they represent the first work of novel bands. In any case, quality and a good taste for melodies are always present, regardless of the degree of heaviness or rawness that each project delivers. Speaking about new projects, the Greek solo project Mystras has recently released its debut album. This project was founded only one year ago by Ayloss, a talented musician behind other interesting projects like Divine Element and especially Spectral Lore, a great atmospheric black metal band which I firmly recommend. Taking into account the previous projects, it is pretty clear that Ayloss has a huge number of ideas to develop in different directions. Mystras may have inherited some influences from other projects like the aforementioned Spectral Lore, its folkish melodies, or aggressiveness but focused on a totally new and different direction.

‘Castles Conquered and Reclaimed’ is the Mystras debut album and it supposes a tremendously personal and particular fusion of pure black metal aggression with a strong medieval vibe. The interesting aspects of this impressive debut are not only found in the music, but also in its conceptual side. In fact, the lyrics are based on the medieval times but this time they take from the oblivion of common folk instead of the traditionally arrogant and powerful kings and nobles. The album consistes of nine different tracks, being divided into the black metal ones and some folk interludes which bring to us the medieval traditional music and therefore, reinforcing the medieval atmosphere included. Although this is a solo project, Ayloss was helped by other talented musicians to provide an undoubtedly beautiful representation of Ars Nova repertoire. I sincerely think that this was a wise choice as the musician shows that he wants to achieve the best possible result for the album. Even though these tracks are really nice and enjoyable, I would focus on the metal tracks to make a final and fair evaluation of this debut. ‘Castles Conquered and Reclaimed’ has a truly raw production, which may alienate fans of metal who prefer a cleaner production, but it will rejoice those who consider that black metal achieves a greater result when the production is filthy because it creates a more unique and stronger atmosphere. Nevertheless, this raw production never surpasses a limit where guitars could be unintelligible. Fortunately, composition-wise this album has certain strong points that can still be enjoyed, through the crude sound. Five are the compositions inside the realms of black metal. All of them are highly enjoyable and with a truly epic atmosphere. The songs are usually fast, though sometimes they slow the pace in order to add some variety. The guitars are powerful presenting a distorted sound, though some great melodies are introduced, making the songs more interesting. Vocals are also a strong point here, with the expected high-pitched screams, accompanied in several songs by epic choirs, so impressively solemn that reinforce the sense of epicity and majesty. In the background, we find some key arrangements which play ai important role in increasing the stateliness of these compositions. The album opening track is a nice example of this mix of influences and resources. The guitars are rude but also melodic, showing a remarkably interesting sound, that even being brutal in its execution has a great room for melody and atmosphere. Subsequent tracks like "The Murder of Wat Tyler" and "Storm the Walls of Mystras" raise the bar of majesty with a long duration, and where melodic influences, a strong epic atmosphere and relentless fury are wisely fused. The medieval vibe is obviously present in all the tracks, though I must highlight songs like "The Zealots of Thessaloniki" and the aforementioned "The Murder of Wat Tyler" as fine examples of this influence. The previously mentioned folk and ambient songs serve as a bridge between the stormy track and reinforce this sense of a mystical journey through medieval realms.

‘Castles Conquered and Reclaimed’ is indeed an impressive debut that any fan of black metal should check out and enjoy. Fury, melody and atmosphere are the quintessential elements of the black metal genre and this album contains a great dose of all of them. (Alain González Artola)