Mystic Prophecy – Hellriot – Album Review
Artist: Mystic Prophecy
Album Title: Hellriot
Label: Rock Of Angels Records
Date of Release: 19 May 2023
In the year 2000, once we all realised that the Y2K panic was totally unfounded, Mystic Prophecy, along with an unknown guitarist Gus G., emerged from Bavaria. The lauded axeman may have since long left the band, but Mystic Prophecy continued, and have been delivering their brand of heavy metal ever since. And that’s despite the quintet only boasting one original member in the form of vocalist Roberto Dimitri “RD” Liapakis. ‘Hellriot’ is the band’s twelfth full-length studio release, and it sees them once again offering a hybrid sound that incorporates power metal, NWOBHM, and thrash metal.
At this juncture, I must admit to the fact that I only have one album by Mystic Prophecy in my collection currently. That record is their 2003 sophomore release, ‘Regressus’, and I can’t honestly remember the last time I gave it a spin. This isn’t to say that this album isn’t good, it’s just that when there is so much music to choose from and listen to, there are records that inevitably get left on the shelf. However, the fact that I never again dived back into the world of these Germans might suggest that ‘Regressus’ didn’t resonate as strongly with me as I might have initially hoped.
Nevertheless, here we are twenty years later and it’s time to renew my acquaintance with Mystic Prophecy. Joining RD Liapakis are guitarists Markus Pohl and Evan K, drummer Hanno Kerstan, and bassist Joey Roxx, all of which can boast a wealth of experience with multiple bands over the years. This shows too, as ‘Hellriot’ is a slick and competent affair that provides just about everything you could want from a band of this ilk.
What you get with this latest record is a hard rocking, powerful cut of real, unadulterated heavy metal. It can be flamboyant at times, it can be catchy and melodic, too. But at its core, this is an album that just rocks, and does so with a swagger and a relentlessness that’s rather endearing. It may not be in the slightest bit original, with any number of bands on the circuit offering a similar sound, but it is good fun.
To underline this comment, just take a listen to one of the stand-out tracks on ‘Hellriot’, the blistering ‘Revenge And Fire’. Nestled in the centre of the album, it is one hell of a shot to the arm, a full-throttle speed metal-meets-thrash opening that settles into an up-tempo power metal song with melody and a hard rock swagger. I’m reminded a little of another of Gus G.’s products, Firewind, as it rips along at a fair old lick, full of guitar flourishes and excess, all the things that I thoroughly love within heavy metal. The dual guitar lines that emerge are pure old-school Arch Enemy, and the whole thing plants a smile on my face.
This isn’t the only quality track either, as others litter this eleven-track album. ‘Rising With The Storm’ features some of the best vocals on the record, with quasi-growls, snarls, and huge soaring notes all make an appearance. The chorus is a thing of huge beauty too, as are the chunky, groovy riffs that emerge out of the tail end of each chorus to give a darker edge to a song that could have been a lot lighter and cheesier than it has happily turned out. Factor in some double pedal action and a wailing lead guitar solo, and it puts forward a strong case to be the album’s best.
Elsewhere, there’s the powerful opening number which is also the title track. The riffs are thick and there’s a palpable sense of urgency as the song gallops keenly, releasing into a solid, catchy chorus featuring a cool lead guitar lick and a chorus of ‘gang’ vocals that work pretty well despite a general apathy towards this approach. ‘Unholy Hell’, by contrast, breaks out the mid-tempo stomp and with it, comes the compulsion to bang your head with real gusto. And, if you don’t like ‘Road To Babylon’ there’s an argument to suggest that maybe you’re not that keen on guitar riffs. It’s a dark number that offers slower-paced power, as well as a sense of something a little more epic sounding, not to mention a fantastically virtuosic lead solo.
There are a couple of tracks that I like less than others, such as ‘Paranoia’ which feels a little paint-by-numbers despite introducing a small modern electronic element. However, even with a couple of slight troughs within the proceedings, ‘Hellriot’ has the feel of a pretty consistent straight-up heavy metal album within which there is plenty to enjoy. It’s also worth noting that ‘Hellriot’ features no such thing as a ballad, or anything even remotely close, actually. Plus, the production is nice and clear, without robbing any strength from the compositions – it isn’t a bells and whistles affair, but it does the job perfectly well as far as I’m concerned.
I wasn’t expecting that much to be honest when I decided to check out ‘Hellriot’ a few days ago, based on my history with the band (or lack thereof). As it has turned out, though, there is much to like about it, and I have willingly spent plenty of time with it whilst getting to grips with this review. Ultimately, whilst not particularly original, through ‘Hellriot’, Mystic Prophecy firmly radiate that true heavy metal spirit via powerful, uncompromising material laced with plenty of those elements that many of us fell in love with in the beginning when discovering heavy metal for the first time.
The Score of Much Metal: 80%