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Stunning in its unique and poignant lyrical depth, as well as the supreme technicality in scope and virtuosity, Swedish Melodic Death Metal group Eucharist's last record, Mirrorworlds (1997), perfectly encapsulates the essence of the first wave "Gothenburg" sound. A forgotten and ruefully undiscovered metal masterpiece, waiting in the wires of time to be born again. A horrifyingly beautiful and ultimately uplifting tribute to the spirit of true discovery.
The dissonant clank of a repeated dial-tone greets us, and pulls into this magnificent hellish soundscape, bracing us for the fear we shall certainly see within its sepulcher. Our dark guides to Mirrorworlds, Eucharist, burst into the mainframe, spraying bullets of charred sound, mowing our flesh into bits and leaving only an untouched spirit, ready for purification, behind. The blast beat cracks lifelessly in the background, until random ingenious directions of groove weave in and out of each other like ouroboros. There is no need for other instruments, the simplicity of our numeral apocalypse is assured.
Suddenly, we are two songs into our journey and "With The Sun" shines a light into your eyes and checks you for vitals. Fuck man, I'm still breathing. The solo in this piece is absolutely necessary and effortless, merely previewing the intuitive nature of successive endeavors, managing to draw you even deeper into their milieu. We are through the gate, but yet we still slumber with heavy eyes. Lost in the haze of the flat production, we find a deep resonant sense of melody warping its way around the entire record, seemingly staying for only 8 or 16 bars before crawling back into the mire.
"The Eucharist" is one of the most pleasing instrumentals I've ever heard from a death metal band, in the direct sense that they satisfy the demand of ridiculous density that the chord choices suggest, without sacrificing the pace of the record. The song drifts along like a ghastly Ritual dirge, forming in some rare hyperspace, burrowing itself into your memory. It closes in correctly dramatic fashion, right on time. The demon draws near and darkness is nigh.
"Demons" and "Fallen" precisely sum up the dichotomy that makes Melodic Death Metal what I would consider truly "modern" music. The former is a raw buzz saw of rabid occult witchery straight from the depths of hell (the wolves' howling is some of the most frightening stuff you'll hear on any record, never mind a melodeath album), of which nothing much is particularly what I would label "melodic", whilst the latter is one of the sterling standards of the genre, replete with one of the finest guitar solos of all time. When you add the heart-shatteringly haunting oboe/acoustic addendum piece, "In Nakedness", it stands to reason that this passage of tunes is probably first wave Melodic Death Metal's most inventive and triumphant moment. Only here can these disparate expressions of reality coexist in perfect cohesion, symbiotic yet chaotic, dreadful, yet so full of pathos. A serious listener will understand that something (though they may not yet know what, as Markus Johnnson's emotional growl may be hard to decipher at first) is being communicated with urgency and efficiency, and that they can only respond by diving headfirst into the "Mirrorworld" that Eucharist has created. "Bloodred Stars" concludes the record in particularly grotesque fashion, almost as if in a dark rush to come down from the nightmare trip. Modem static blends with bass guitar whine, the whipping blast fades and our eyes snap open, the blinders gone…for a moment.
"And I am watching my hand's art performance
I calmly leave my body behind,
through a cold, gloomy mist
I am floating into the land of
Four years passed and the follow-up to A Velvet Creation would rear its head at last, after another brief breakup. In the meantime, At the Gates and In Flames had blown up into international metal superstars, Arch Enemy and Dark Tranquillity were starting to take off, and At the Gates had already broken up. Melodic death metal was a pretty well established style, a still-rising star that would serve as a gateway to many younger metal fans who were poisoned with nu-metal, and a breath of fresh air for jaded metal fans who found no value in death, black and grind extremity, seeking a return to the accessible melodic songwriting they grew up with in the 80s.
Aye, the world was ripe for the picking, and Mirrorworlds, the second effort from Eucharist, was a more modern effort with a bigger budget appeal than its predecessor. For reasons above and beyond that one, I do like this record a little more. The songs rock a little harder and there are some interesting moments. It's still not a classic, and for some reason, the band once again failed to draw much attention. I half expected this to be huge, seeing as the genre was exploding in popularity, but it only sealed their fate, with Erlandsson moving on to stardom with his countrymen (he had already recorded with In Flames during this band's hiatus betwen albums). Thomas Einarsson and Tobias Gustoffson had left the band prior to this recording, but Markus Karlsson joined on bass, making this a 3-piece effort.
Spacey noises announce the arrival of "Mirrorworld", and though one could immediate note the thicker guitar tones and lavish, newborn intensity of the band, the lack of the A Velvet Creation's sullen atmosphere would likely steer some away from the sound. Granted, Eucharist still had their own, somewhat distinct approach to this genre, but there was an infectious, modern energy that would be able to compete with the Whoracles, The Minds I's and Steelbath Suicides to come. "Dissolving" had an emotional, climactic pace which ran parallel to some of In Flames' work, big hooks and somber melodies that drifted above Johnsson's tortured throat. "With the Sun" blasts and breaks and blasts into another big rhythm, though it slows into more meaty mid-paced melodies and an acoustic outro. "The Eucharist" builds a grooving rock rhythm, crested by dual melodies, and I dug the echoing, atmospheric line that would conclude the lead around 3:30 in the track. "Demons" has some more rock to it (kind of like a premature Hearse), alternating the blues with some great outbreaks of death metal chaos.
'In the twilight a bestial drama is being enacted
Her legs are separated as my tears fall on her breasts...
...oh, I fuck her...'
Not only had the band upped their ante musically, but the lyrics here are also a little more fiery, if still poetic and lavished in gothic imagery. "Fallen" is my favorite song on the album, with a pensive gait that erupts numerous times into melodic bliss. Once more, there is a rock feel to the writing, similar to Hearse or some of Arch Enemy's material on Stigmata and Burning Bridges. "In Nakedness" makes great use of a horn and some acoustics to build an urbane, folk atmosphere. It's an instrumental track, with metal nowhere to be found, and one can't help but feel it's a dismissal of genre that foreshadowed a dismissal of Eucharist's future. But "Bloodred Stars" rides off into the sunset with a pretty killer, driving hook and some great bridge melodies akin to the debut album, so it all ends on a high note.
Ultimately, Mirrorworlds is superior to A Velvet Creation in many areas. About the only thing it lacks is the raw sincerity of the prior's recording. For most listeners, though, this is not likely to be an issue. The lyrics and most of the songs are more entertaining and energetic, with fine performances from the two original members. You could do worse than reach back to the year of 1997 and give this a spin, and I honestly prefer it to Dark Tranquillity's album that year (The Mind's I). This isn't perfect, and I suppose it doesn't stand on the longest of legs, but there are a few gems to dig up when the urge arises.
Highlights: The Eucharist, Fallen, Bloodred Stars
Those familiar with this band swear by A Velvet Creation, an album that seems heavily influenced by Red in the Sky-era At the Gates, but with a strange, moody, melancholy blended in. Mirrorworlds sees a change, this time around the Eucharist boys send out some pretty harsh sounding melodic death metal. At times sounding like an ecccentric In Flames, and others recalling their murkier past, Eucharist show how overlooked they were.
The production is much different in comparison to their debut. It's a lot clearer here, clearly inspired by the Gothenburg-ish movement. At the forefront lays a more harmonic approach to riff writting, although the guys still prove skilled at creating textured riffs, an approach that defines the band's sound altogether. Mixing in some different riffs and leads along with little curveballs like the outro to With the Sun, Markus shows off a wide range of riffcrafting ability, something that doesn't seem to be as appreciated. The bass is present, but it's not "the presence" like on A Velvet Creation, where the bass filled every crack left by the bleak guitar sound. I'm sure many a death metal fan will be disappointed with the band's sound on this record, which is a shame considering the quality of the music. The drumming is a little more subdued, but Daniel Erlandsson still lays in some pretty great patterns and fills. His ability to keep the drumming within the context of the song, as well as keeping the listener interested, was a big strength of this band, and it shows up here.
Fans of the bands earlier work may find some fault with this album, but I must say, this is solid. Eucharist were known for crafting quality tunes, and Mirrorworlds is no exception. There's a lot to like here.
The band's second full-length studio release, it was released in 1997, 8 years after the forming of the band in 1989 in Sweden. It should be easy to see that the band has gone a long was since their "A Velvet Creation", released in 1993.
The thing I love about this band is their originality, which can easily be seen here on Mirrorworld. One hears the phrase "Melodic Metal" and might think of Maiden guitars, or perhaps some power metal riffs with Death Metal vocals? But no, the guitars are perfect. Thick distortion adds to the dark atmosphere throughout the album, giving an eerie, yet great, listening experience.
Probably the best part about this CD (and band in general, as this can be seen on “A Velvet Creation” as well) is the fact that Eucharist are so good with melody and rhythm, staying original at every song, and filling the album with ALL good songs, so you can listen to the whole album all the way through without getting bored. (As I often see myself getting bored with the majority of death metal releases).
The drumming on this album is also extraordinary, making the music richer and taking away some of that shallow feeling that could sometimes be heard on “A Velvet Creation.”
Overall, the only bad thing I can find about this album is the lack of a really good production. While it’s not BAD, it could DEFINITELY be improved.
For such a short-lived and highly unrecognized band, this CD is a masterpiece. Sure, it has its flaws. But it is definitely, by far, way better than 99% of the Death Metal releases out there. Highly recommended.
Search back through the Metal-Rules archives and you will already find two reviews of Eucharist – MIRRORWORLDS, competently covered by my colleagues El Cid and JP. Aside from the inherent excellence of the album, why does this particular album deserve a third time around?
Looking back at Wrong Again Records’ history, it seems that the label not only had a talent for signing some excellent bands, but the short life and limited press created quite a supply/demand issue for their releases. Take a search on Ebay sometime for original versions of Arch Enemy-BLACK EARTH, Armageddon-CROSSING THE RUBICON, or In Flames-LUNAR STRAIN or SUBTERRANEAN and you’ll see what I mean.
Among such a repertoire of classic albums is the oft-overlooked Eucharist. Thankfully, for those poor saps (such as myself) who never got a chance to acquire either of Eucharist’s two albums, A VELVET CREATION or MIRRORWORLDS, Regain records has acquired the rights to the albums and has reissued them. Unfortunately, that will not make my long-overdue pursuit of the original issues that much more difficult.
History lesson aside, MIRRORWORLDS ranks right up there with the ultimate classic Gothenburg albums, keeping closer to the older sound of real melodic death metal instead of the Maiden-ish/power metally sound of other so-called meldeath releases. From the moment the title track kicks in its intense “deathy” feel with a very nice, thickly distored melodic lead that, combined with the excellent drumming of Daniel Erlandsson absolutely rips your fucking head off. “Dissolving” is my favourite track on the album, the chops and interesting guitar tone really making it a catchy song to stick in my head before the album dives into “With the Sun,” which basically typifies every Gothenburg-styled song ever written with its alternate mid-paced melodic breaks between fast, raw, yet still melodic passages. Each of the other songs on the album, including the instrumental “The Eucharist” carry on with much the same degree of style and quality. Of particular note is the other instrumental, “In Nakedness,” a softer song featuring a very haunting oboe lead. I feel that this track is a bit out of place, being better suited either smack in the middle of all the chaos, or as a very appropriate outro piece.
The songs laid down on MIRRORWORLDS may sound a bit generic, with seven years of history already behind it, MIRRORWORLDS is already considered a classic album (although often unknown or underrated) in the Gothenburg genre. Certainly, this album is a fitting epitaph for this excellent, though short-lived band.
(originally written by me for www.metal-rules.com, February, 2004)