Mystras
Castles Conquered and Reclaimed

One of my best and oldest friends is a former metal and rock producer as well as FOH for a prominent metal band. He once told me: “With how cheap and easy it is to make a clear recording now, why would anyone settle for less?” That’s verbatim, of course. He’s not a fan of the “trve kvlt” or “necro” sound.

For me, some albums with that sound are more of a “time and place” sort of deal. A lot of those bands, in the underground, when they recorded, did the best with what they had. However, I am in agreement with him to an extent because I truly don’t understand why, with all the resources available, would someone decide to release an album that sounds like it was recorded in a porta-potty.

This brings us to Mystras and their (his) debut, entitled Castles Conquered and Reclaimed. This is Ayloss of Spectral Lore’s folk/black metal project. I can’t even count the times in my life I’ve uttered the phrase; “How the hell did I get myself into this?” When the first track, the title track, “Castles Conquered and Reclaimed” starts, I kept turning it up because I thought there was an extended intro. Once it got loud enough, I realized all instruments had already kicked in at a frantic pace, including the vocals shouted from another dimension.

After that, the second track, “The Cutty Wren” starts, which is completely different from the first. There’s a reason for this as it is essentially an interlude. This is part of the concept, which is 9 tracks, divided equally between black metal tracks and covers of songs from medieval folklore. In this instance, this interlude leads well into track #3, “The Murder of Wat Tyler,” which is a 13-minute epic.

As mentioned above, this narrative continues throughout. While this is a strength, it’s also a weakness. Each interlude serves as an intro for the next song or an outro from the previous, if you prefer. However, the transitions from these intros to the songs themselves are quite stark because of the obvious differences in production. It almost sounds like you’re listening to a demos collection from one of your favorite old school bands where there’s a clear audio quality difference between the old songs and the new ones, yet no one at the label decided to clean it up. I’m sure you’ve been there.

I’m not going to go any further breaking down anymore songs because, to be honest, there’s not enough differences between them. If there were, you wouldn’t be able to hear them anyway. However… Despite what I originally thought of this album, it has its charms. It’s almost as if Obsequiae wrote a new record, then decided to record it in a sealed crawl space. John Wayne Gacy’s crawl space. Once the first note hits, you’ll probably know whether you’ll like this. Furthermore, once it hits, you may decide you don’t even want to give it a chance. When I first listened, I did know I wouldn’t be purchasing this album after reviewing it. This album is not for me, though. That doesn’t mean it’s not for you. If you’re into lo-fi, medieval black metal, it may be.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J Mays
August 10th, 2020

Comments

  1. Commented by: Erik T

    Man, Ayloss really missed a chance with this. I get what he’s was going for for but the production on the songs (the interludes are crystal clear for some reason), really kills it and saps his riffs. Which is a shame as I think there are some amazing riffs buried in here, you just cant literally her them.


  2. Commented by: J. Mays

    Yeah, I can definitely see what he was going for. As you mentioned, the interludes being clear really struck me… I don’t understand why one would work so hard on an album just to have it completely ruined by this horrific production.


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