Mystic Circle - Erzdämon

Artist: Mystic Circle

Album Title: Erzdämon

Label: Fireflash Records

Date of Release: 17 March 2023

I can still remember where and when I first discovered Mystic Circle. It was around the turn of the Millennium, and I was at University in Canterbury. In the high street, as was the way in those days, there was an independent record shop. I forget the name of it, but it was always a good bet for the odd gem. With money tight as a student, I procrastinated long and hard before putting my hand in my pocket. But eventually, I took a punt and bought ‘Infernal Satanic Verses’, the third album by the German black metal band.

An entity unknown to me at the time, it was a combination of a love of black metal coupled with a sense of daring that made me give it a try. After all, it was before YouTube and social media as a whole, so I had no idea what I was going to hear. I hoped for melodic black metal and happily, that’s what I got. Admittedly, the album had its ups and downs, and it never became a cult classic in my collection. But there were a few songs that I really liked and listened to quite a lot, developing a soft spot for it in the process.

A smattering of albums followed, but I never actually got around to listening to any of them if truth be told. And then came the sixteen-year hiatus that ended with the release of their self-titled eighth album, which I missed completely last year. Never fear though, because news of their ninth album hit my radar early and I have not looked back. Entitled ‘Erzdämon’, it is once again the work of the duo behind Mystic Circle, Beelzebub and A. Blackwar,

According to the two protagonists, ‘Erzdämon’ sees the duo returning full circle to their roots via a German title, meaning Archdemon in English, and a sound that they say recalls their early albums, ‘Drachenblut’ and ‘Infernal Satanic Verses’. Now perhaps my wandering tales of yore at the beginning of this review make a little more contextual sense? I hope so.

Adorned with take-it-or-leave-it cover artwork, I had my doubts when I first pressed play, but I felt I owed it to my twenty-year relationship with Mystic Circle to check out ‘Erzdämon’. And, you know what? I’m genuinely glad I did, too. A world beating slab of black metal I don’t think it is, but in terms of solid entertainment within the realm of melodic black metal, you could definitely do an awful lot worse. I’ve certainly enjoyed listening to it, I must admit.

To begin with, the sound of the album is great. There are no wasps in biscuit tins here, as Mystic Circle have decided to go with a strong, powerful production that fits their brand of black metal perfectly. It isn’t overly polished to the point of numbing the impact, but it does carry some weight to it, allowing the drums and the guitars in particular plenty of clarity and muscle. This is particularly important given that ‘Erzdämon’ is littered with plenty of lead breaks, double-pedal attacks, and a classic heavy metal vibe within their melodic black metal approach.

Mystic Circle - Erzdämon

Also to it’s credit, ‘Erzdämon’ is a fantastically consistent album, where the quality rarely dips from start to finish. In fact, the only slight misstep that I detect on this record is with the penultimate track, ‘Skinwalker’, which has a strange Western feel to it, particularly at the outset. On a record that prides itself as dark, demonic, and Satanic, the John Wayne-inspired intro is odd, and out-of-place. Admittedly, it isn’t long before we’re battered with an uncompromising blastbeat-led explosion of black metal malevolence, arguably the heaviest on the entire album. But the intro, alongside the fact that the melody is at its least pronounced throughout this song, means that I have to call it out as my least favourite of the nine on ‘Erzdämon’.

It doesn’t help also, that it is preceded by my personal favourite track, the wonderous ‘Mothman’. It’s easily the most anthemic and immediate offering on the record, but it’s delicious. The mid-tempo sections are full of memorable, majestic melody and when the pace increases, it skips along with assured confidence, a counterpoint to the immediacy elsewhere. And the guitar solo, when unleashed, is a thing of utter magnificence, part classic metal flamboyance, part sinister wailing to the underworld.

As good as this song is, Mystic Circle do their best to push it close with other tracks on ‘Erzdämon’, as evidenced by the likes of ‘From Hell’ and ‘The Scarecrow’. In the case of the former, the sounds of tortured souls can just be heard over the ominous guitar-led intro that’s swiftly displaced by a thunderous composition that’s dominated by a flurry of blast beats and sharp riffs, not to mention some really nice lead guitar lines that add memorability and theatre to the song. Not content with leaving it there, the duo then inject further resounding melody via a sumptuous mid-section, frantic lead guitar solos, and heavily effect-laden spoken-word elements alongside the more classic higher-pitched rasping growls that feature throughout.

As far as the latter is concerned, it sees Mystic Circle arguably at their theatrical best, with swathes of keys adding atmosphere and drama to a song that’s again melodic in the right way, whilst also being fast and furious, dark, and powerful at the same time.

As I said before though, such is the consistency of this album, the chances are that if you like one of the songs, you’re likely to enjoy the vast majority of them. ‘Erzdämon’ is definitely one of the slickest, most consistent, and enjoyable melodic black metal albums I’ve heard in a while. It gets better with repeated listens too, meaning that there is a lot to commend it for. A world beater it might not be, but ‘Erzdämon’ is a very solid and highly competent affair that comes with a firm recommendation from me.

The Score of Much Metal: 87%



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