As the world is slowly descending into the eternal night, it is only befitting that pedigree 1990s black metal outfits are coming back with a vengeance. Last year, we saw the triumphant return of the Finnish legends, DARKWOODS MY BETROTHED, and now, one of the most famous and infamous of the German extreme metal bands, MYSTIC CIRCLE, has prepared a new full-length studio offering of blazing black-metal conjurations. As though marking a new beginning for the band, their eponymously titled ninth outing, to be released on February 4th, 2022, via Atomic Fire Records, takes on where the original line-up left off in 1999, when A. Blackwar left the band. Ultimately, it was the year 2007 that saw the demise of the remaining posse and now, after many a dark year, the original black-metal ruffians are back at it again, paying homage to the tenets of old-school sonic devilry with the somewhat possessed recalibration of their ever melodic, sinister, and aggressive trademark sound. The new album, “Mystic Circle,” pays tribute to the 1990s quite nicely, albeit by being crowned by modern production. The old evil spirit is right there again as though it had never left.
As if to further pronounce the somewhat seamless transition from the band’s late-1990s code of conduct to this new offering, the intro of the new album’s opener, “Belial Is My Name,” picks up on the outro of the 1999 album, “Infernal Satanic Verses.” It bridges the gap between the years, almost as if 2+ decades had not gone by at all. The opening track sets the tone for the whole outing rather poignantly: MYSTIC CIRCLE is conjuring up metal that is predominantly fast and aggressive, save for the odd atmospheric track, such as “Hell Demons Rising.” A disclaimer may be in order here, though: when it comes to this black-metal bunch, the word “atmospheric” does not exactly stand for post-rockish plateaus of free-floating in zero gravity. It is still very much a metal punch-up, although the punching is executed with a bit more elegant fervor, as though with a chassé-like ballet movement.
The triumphant return album of these German metal rogues is a selection of nine new aggressive and anthemic black-metal bangers. As an added bonus, the digipak comes with the band’s rendition of the POSSESSED classic, “Death Metal.” It blends in rather naturally with all the new MYSTIC CIRCLE originals.
Lyrically, the album leans heavily on the standard-issue occult mythology themes, the mainstays of heavy metal imagery since the dawn of time, what with all the seven-headed dragons and hell-demons rising. Thereby, the album remains true to the original idea of the genre to go back to the forbidden roots of human civilization, to return to the source. In a way, the lyrical themes are not necessarily a far cry from, say, the power-metal endeavors of IRON MAIDEN, although MYSTIC CIRCLE delivers the narrative with a bit more forceful sonic sway. Yes, there will be blast-beats – lots of them! I would say the general mood on the album is relentless. The somewhat croaking vocal delivery is also slightly reminiscent of old sea shanties and drinking songs. However, it still nicely avoids the feel of downright pagan metal.
I feel tempted to say that, considering how pretty damn hard it is to stop laughing at our own stupidity as a species every now and then, this German metal horde kindly offers us the auditive form of the incessant clatter of that hollow laughter. The band’s modus operandi is to set this in motion with an onslaught of vicious riffs, sinister melodies, and the unrestrained wrath of all the ancient Balrogs.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Belial Is My Name
- Seven Headed Dragon
- Hell Demons Rising
- Letters From the Devil
- Darkness In Flames
- The Arrival of Baphomet
- Curse of the Wolf Demon
- Satanic Mistress
- Death Metal (POSSESSED Cover)
Beelzebub – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards
A. Blackwar – vocals, guitars, drums, keyboards