Released: 1997, War Music
Hindsight is 20-20. In the mid 90’s there was this little underground label called WAR. At the time I read about the bands on the label but didn’t pay too much attention, which is tragically my own stupid fault! However, better late than never! As time progresses people are realizing that this label was an incredible launch pad of so many bands that now are receiving the accolades they deserve. In fact, I believe that Century Media just acquired the rights to some old WAR stuff and will be re-issuing pieces from that, (now in hindsight) majestic roster of bands. For example, bands that started on (or were signed with early on) WAR Music are Arch Enemy, In Flames, Naglfar, Carnal Forge, The Crown, Darkane and Eucharist. Over the past 7 years I (like most metal fans) became familiar with all the above mentioned bands except…Eucharist.
My buddy Evil Dave remembers reading years ago that respected metal journalist, XX used to rave about these guys and even put Eucharist in his annual Top 10 one year. That’s’ very high praise from a voice of authority for such an unknown band. My curiosity was triggered and I always wondered what they were like, having heard only two song on a now quite rare and valuable WAR compilation CD. (Check our review database for an excellent review of the comp) I also have heard/seen a Maiden tribute CD. (Bear with me, my nostalgic ramblings are going somewhere) The Toy Factory tribute CD MAIDEN TRIBUTE, came out years back and I remember thinking to myself, “Who the hell are these no-name bands on this obscure label tribute?!” Know I realize, (again hindsight is 20-20) that these really were the pioneers of the melodic Swedish Death Metal scene and Toy Factory is a small Japanese label that had a lot of these bands as well, presumably licensed for Japan. Like the WAR comp, the Maiden Tribute CD is a sought after gem, one of the few cool tributes in a sea of faceless imitators. Anyway…Now finally I am the very proud owner of Mirrorworld, their second CD. On with the review!
After all that anticipation the CD did not live up to the hype, or maybe I set my expectations too high, or perhaps even 5 years later it sounds a little dated. I can see why this fell by the wayside. The CD itself leaves much to be desired. The graphics are dull, the cover is boring, few liner notes, no photos, and not much else. It clocks in at 37 minutes with eight tunes , two of which are instrumentals. Lyrically, they fall into a type of gothic, existential frame of mind with an apparent them of astronomy perhaps? It’s hard to fully comprehend the lyrics of tunes like “Mirror World”, “With The Sun”, and “Bloodred Stars”.
That aside this CD is still very cool. Every song on this with one painful exception is excellent! Most of the songs fall into the mid-tempo range, heavy and somber. This is very little frantic drumming characterized by many of the other bands on the WAR label.
The songs are definitely death metal with a heavy progressive doom edge. They definitely remind me of old In Flames before Jester Race and the introduction of poppy riffing. It is hard to explain but there is this undercurrent of menace, sort of a low crushing vibe that I am having a hard time to put into words. There is one glaring exception the seventh track and instrumental called “In Nakedness”. This song is bad.. It should not be on this CD. It is a Yanni/Kenny G/Tesh, new-age ballad thing that just plain sucks. I don’t know what they were thinking. They could have used the ideas in the song and scattered them into the other songs to add dynamics and flair but choose to do a giant, ethereal, oboe solo. I kid you not.
This review, after I re-read it part way through, does read in a negative manner. Don’t get me wrong, the music really is superb and you shouldn’t let my criticism of the non-musical components of this release deter you from seeking it out. The songs are strong, well written, arranged, performed and executed with a Swedish death thrash style that has become all the rage in the underground. The songs are heavy dark and progressive and a real treat for the metal fan who doesn’t always need the immediacy of an all out pummeling thrash attack. Every element lends itself nicely to the whole feel of the music. The vocals are low and growling but not indecipherable. The guitars are down-tuned and the solos are understated, not much Yngwie-esque shredding to be found here! Even the production is dark and dirty adding more atmosphere to this excellent CD. All in all a very unique sound and perhaps therein lies the beauty if this undiscovered little gem. Not an immediately gratifying listen but a complex, well done CD that deserves your attention.