Mephisto
Carpathian Tales (Reissue)

I don’t pretend to know much about the Cuban metal scene. Let alone the Cuban Symphonic Black Metal scene. But when I saw this promo for Symphonic Black Metal pop-up, I checked it out, and it has turned into one of those ‘buy everything the band has released’ affairs.

This is the band’s debut from 2000, rerecorded by the band, which is now a three-piece. They haven’t been super productive since Reborn in Ashes (which had some rerecordings from this debut) was released in 2016 after a long layoff and 2021s Pentafixion. It’s classic 90s/ early 00s Symphonic Black Metal par for the course in 2000 with bands at the time like Cradle of Filth, Hecate Enthroned and Dimmu Borgir and Anorexia Nervosa, meaning a heavily theatric/Gothic lean, replete with ‘Wampyric whispers’, although the vocals are a bit deeper and death metal-ish, giving the overall sound a little more of a gruffer earthy vibe.

That all said the newly recorded keyboards of Jorge Parra (who also does bass and drums) are where Mephisto really shines with a dramatic, bombastic brass presence (along with the expected strings and piano/organs) that borders on class Bal-Sagoth at times (i.e the start of “Lord Dracula”).  ANd improves even on the band’s 2021 album’s sound. But there is some really strong songwriting here that stands up well 24 years later, even with some of the Gothic cheese from back then still present. And with a shiny new gloss, as you’d expect, they sound way better than the original.

If you can get past some of those hammy, early Gothic-styled, Dracula-based tones (i.e. the howling and chorus of “Symphony of Wolves”, which does end with a brilliant crescendo), the songs are solid, near excellent Symphonic Black Metal, especially with all the new bells and whistles. For example, standout moments include the climax to “Under Moonlight I Wish”,  the cool little march/sway to start “IV Moon Domine”, full-on bombast, and female vocals of “One Dead Kiss…..in Aeternam” (in fact, the whole 2nd half is superb).

The blistering penultimate closer “The Carpathian Chronicles” (before the instrumental outro “Cry of the Blizzard”), wraps the album up perfectly and makes The Carpathian Tales one of the better reissues/redos of the last few years. I hope they become more productive again because their material from 2000 has stood up well, and so has their 2021 album. Let’s see what they can do in 2024 and beyond.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
March 19th, 2024

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