posted on 1/2012 By:
I have never been and probably will never be a big power metal fan, but every once in a while, I get it in my head to give the genre a chance. On the first of these instances, circa 2003, I solicited some forum associates for suggestions of power metal that might meet my exacting standards. Mystic Prophecy’s name came up as a candidate, and given my criteria, it was a great suggestion. Mystic Prophecy was heavy - bordering on thrash at times - and its vocalist / founder R. D. “Lia” Liapakis was more of a Dio-styled singer than a falsetto shrieker, and his lyrics, if not explicitly satanic, were certainly quite concerned with Hell, damnation, demons, and other dark, weighty subject matter. Unfortunately, while I appreciated the band’s style, I found Mystic Prophecy’s songcraft lacked that special something to really hook me in, but I am nothing if not an exceptionally picky son of a bitch. After initially purchasing Regressus, I gave the band another shot with Never Ending in 2004, but Mystic Prophecy soon fell off my radar and remained so until its latest album, Ravenlord, popped up in our review queue.
Despite a near complete overhaul of the band’s lineup over the past seven or so years, including the departure of current Firewind / Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Gus G, Mystic Prophecy’s sound has changed surprisingly little. The sole remaining original member, Lia is still belting out tales of hellfire and brimstone in much the same manner as he was the last time I heard him. The rest of the band performs the heavy, polished power / thrash for which Mystic Prophecy is known. Current guitarists Markus Pohl and Constantine prove quite capable of filling Gus G.’s shoes, gracing Ravenlord with some first-class shredding and crunchy riffs.
Power metal is a tough style to get right. More than any other metal sub-genre, power metal lives and dies by the vocal melody. Without a soaring, anthemic chorus, the best any power metal song can hope to be is mediocre. In mixing thrash into its sound, Mystic Prophecy takes some of the pressure off its vocalist via aggressive, attention-grabbing riffs. Make no mistake, Lia is a damn good singer; his voice is strong and well controlled, and he fills Ravenlord with more catchy choruses than there are virgins at a Dream Theater concert. Nonetheless, Ravenlord’s most effective material is definitely that in which the thrash quotient is high. Tracks such as “Die Now” and “Damned Tonight” and the particularly vicious bonus track “Back with the Storm” strike the right balance between intensity and melody, but there a few tracks in the middle of the album that do not fare so well. “Hollow” and “Wings of Destiny,” among a few others, get bogged down in some clunky, almost nu-metal-ish riffing, that would be more at home on a Black Label Society record. Yet, even these weaker tracks are redeemed by strong vocal hooks and top-notch soloing.
Power metal is always going to be a tough sell to a significant segment of the metal-listening population, but Mystic Prophecy’s dark, hard-edged sound has the potential to make some converts. Ravenlord is probably not among Mystic Prophecy’s best albums, but the band has too much talent to produce a record that is anything less than solid.
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