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Imagine this: Neudi, Hellroadie and Josh Castillo all sit together in a room on January 31st, 2013 drunk off their asses and writing songs for Mysterium, when all of a sudden... The Shark himself stomps into the room.
"Where the hell have you guys been? are you writing songs without me? and when is the album due? I know it has to be close..."
"Well, the album's due tomorrow sir..." starts Hellroadie, "but we have these seven songs here and..." Mark snatches the songs and sighs "Good fucking lord. These are just... I can't... Get your asses in the studio. Now.". The three band-members start their way out with Hellroadie being at the tail-end of the pack. On the way out, Hellroadie looks to the Shark and asks, "Mark... someday will I sing as good as you?". Awkwardly maintaining eye contact, Mark slowly shuts the door with Hellroadie depressingly searching his face for an answer. "Alright" says Mark, "time to show those bozos how to write a song or two.".
That's the only possible way I can imagine this album being recorded. I don't even know where to start. Uh, the pacing here is god-awful. The first three tracks hint at greatness but never really reach their full potential. Remember The Deluge? Remember how the first three tracks hint at how great the album could be without ever really spoiling it? Remember how "Hammer of the Witches" comes around finally and just kicks your ass and you go, "Yeah! Now we're talkin'!"? Well, the first three songs on Mysterium ("The Grey God Passes"/"Stand Your Ground"/"The Battle of Bonchester Bridge") are similar to "Dementia"/"Shadows in the Black"/Divine Victim" in the respect that they never really reach full Manilla Road greatness and they leave you wanting more, in a good way, because you know the forthcoming tracks have to be kick-ass. Except on Mysterium, the tracks stop being kinda ok after track 3 then they don't become good again until track 8. Four songs (20 minutes) of just trash, of just filler garbage. It's a goddamn endurance test. These four abominations make the first three songs seem like the greatest Manilla Road you've ever heard. These four tracks ("Hermitage"/Do What Thou Will"/Only the Brave"/"Hallowed Be Thy Grave") all follow the same formula. Have a generic, boring Manilla Road riff, loop it for 6 minutes and call it a day. To make matters worse, Hellroadie sings almost all these songs and he sounds terrible on this album.
Mark Shelton's guitar sounds very uninspired and quite frankly bored on Mysterium. I don't necessarily put all the blame on him for this, it's mainly the songwriting's fault. These guys wrote these songs in such a way that most the time, the only saving grace are the solos. So how are the solos on this album? Ok. They're Manilla Road solos, nothing too new or groundbreaking. But they sound so fresh against the barrage of boring riffs and tired bass and drum work. Now you may be asking yourself: "If this album is THAT bad, why the half-way decent score of 68?". Well, I haven't even mentioned the last three tracks because I didn't want to sound too track-by-track but... the last three tracks on Mysterium are brilliant. In all seriousness, these three songs are so great that it pisses you off even more that the first, what? 7 songs? are so lackluster.
I don't know what exactly I was expecting out of Mysterium. Whatever it was, I didn't get it. One of the only saving graces here is that the last 3 songs are seriously some of the best Manilla Road has ever put out. Snag a copy of Mysterium if you must, just don't expect too much out the album.