posted on 3/2009 By:
*queue voice of a dusty ol' cowboy*
"Legend has it, Carpathian Mountain maniacs used to celebrate with get-togethers called "black metal regales." Their metal? Khors. They called it "true black metal," and it was brewed only one way: with Carpathian Mountain grit and high-country atmosphere, giving Khors that raw, full-flavored taste that still holds true today. Other black metal bands have folded their tents and quietly moved along. But Khors black metal has held as strong as the Carpathians themselves. So the next time you're having a black metal get-together, make the same choice Ukrainian elitists have been making for years: Khors -- provided by the Khors Black Metal Brewing Company of Kharklv, Ukraine."
*back to the show*
There's just something about those Carpathian Mountains that seems very conducive to the creation of epic, atmospheric black metal. Yes, a decent portion of it is unfortunately sullied by rather intolerant, questionable aesthetics, but the Khors-specific ideology is focused on pre-Christian European pagan practices, a theme carried over from its founding member's previous band, Astrofaes.
What sets this record apart from much of the black metal produced in and around this particular region is how comparatively mellow it is. The pace never really breaks from a mid-gallop, and the staple buzzsaw guitar walls often characterized by bands from this general local are replaced by clear, distinct riffs and heavy doses of melodic noodling. Probably the closest proximity in terms of general sound and vibe would fall to Estrangement era Drudkh (particularly in the soloing and vocals), or Fimbulvinter era Kroda, but Mysticism definitely travels down a more moody, mellow, and at times rockin' path. Even when the songs are running at their most brisk pace -- the self titled track and the superb "Winterfall", for example -- mellow flourishes abound, and they're embellished through heavy use of acoustic plucking & strumming and moogish/weirdly keyboard tinklings.
Oh yes, there are some impish little keys tip-toeing about on this tapestry. Yet somehow this instrument I've traditionally scorned in black metal gets folded in very neatly by Khors (and most of their countrymen, for that matter). Every tune present uses them in one form or another: mostly as atmospheric bells and whistles, but also occasionally breaking out into the solo spotlight for short bursts that add a sparkling glint to a good share of the album.
Mysticism also boasts a production that's as bright and crisp as a windless Winter's day. And while I'd definitely affirm there'll always be a place in my heart for the trashcan end of the genre, this record's cleanliness really serves it well by further augmenting its ample melodic moments and allowing the mellow moods to flourish without the hinderance of hissing and murk.
I would've bumped the songwriting score up a tad had the band stretched a couple tunes out more to really amplify the epic feel painted on the edges. Even still, Mysticism is undoubtedly a record I'd comfortably recommend to fans of pagan black metal hailing from the Eastern European region, as well as those who normally steer clear of the genre because of its often grubby take on production. Khors has brewed up a tasty, refreshing record, so kick back, crack it open and drink it in.
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