Mystic Circle
Mystic Circle

I had no idea that Nuclear Blast Records founder Markus Staiger had a split with his label last year and had formed a new label, the not so subtly named Atomic Fire Records, with some of his former Nuclear Blast folks. Not only that, they have pulled over some serious heavyweights over with them like Meshuggah, Amorphis, Sonata Artica,  Opeth, Helloween and……..Mystic Circle?

I actually have no problem with Mystic Circle, as these corpse-painted, Satanic Germans released some solid symphonic black metal in the mid and late 90s and early 00s with albums like Drachenblut, Infernal Satanic Verses, and The Great Beast that were enjoyable but admittedly peripheral to the likes Dimmu Borgir (their clear primary influence) and such. But was surprised this one was one of the new labels’ first releases.

Especially as later releases like Damien, Open the Gates of Hell, and The Bloody Path of God, were a bit ‘meh’ and signaled the band’s waning career which eventually ended in 2007. However, all these years later, original members Beelzebub (guitars, vocals, keys, and bass) and drummer Aaarrrgon, who were last together on 1999s Infernal Satanic Verses, have reunited as a duo to release a self-titled comeback album, and they still love Satan and hate God.

Surprisingly, Mystic Circle is damn solid. It’s superbly produced by newcomer Nils Lesser (Cypecore) and delivers a pretty vicious 8 songs of symphonic black metal, that’s not quite full-on theatrical/ symphonic  Abrahadabra-ish bombast, but certainly uses the keys extensively. The mix of more vicious crisply produced black metal and atmospheric and orchestration comes across like Grief of Emerald’s work (another solid if second-tier Dimmu clone from the era).

Starting with “Belial Is My Name” and “Seven Headed Dragon”, the album is pretty relentless with a focus on bombastic blasts and high octane gallops. two tracks in and its clear, the duo aren’t about to fall into wispy atmospherics, cheesy, overdone theatrics, or occult ambiance (though the above video for the “Letters From the Devil” suggests otherwise), but at least musically, they want to rip your face off and tell you how much they hate Christianity at the same time.

“Hell’s Demons Rising” reigns things in a shade as does the sinister sway of personal favorite” Curse of the Wolf Demon” later on, but for the most part, this is swift, slicing black metal, as “Letters From From the Devil” (despite its spoken word closeout), “Darkness in Flame”, more ‘melodic’ “The Arrival of Baphomet”  (the album’s two most orchestral symphonic numbers)  and “Satanic Mistress” show with blasphemous confidence.

The album closes with a raucous cover of Possessed’s “Death Metal”, and shows the duo has plenty of piss ‘n’ vinegar left after more than 20 years, to show some of these young whipper snappers what up.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
February 22nd, 2022

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