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German power metallers Mystic Prophecy have had quite a few line-up changes over the years. Beginning with the departure of wizard guitarist Gus G in 2005, the band expanded their group by adding a 2nd guitarist. Markus Pohl and Martin Grimm were fine assets to the band and played on both ‘Savage souls’ and ‘Satanic curses’, released in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
In 2008, the band had numerous line-up changes again, with guitarist Martin Grimm leaving for Headstone Epitaph. Also, bassist and co-founder Martin Albrecht and drummer Matthias Straub have too left the band, leaving vocalist Roberto Dimitri Liapakis and guitarist Markus Pohl in search for new members. Enter bassist Connie Andreszka (Circle of Pain), drummer Stefan Dittrich (ex-Saidian, ex-Crisis Never Dies) and guitarist Constantine (Descending, ex-Nightrage). With the new line-up complete, the band was ready to move on to record their 6th full-length release, entitled ‘Fireangel’.
Mystic Prophecy changed their sound slightly with the ‘Savage souls’ release, opting for a harder and aggressive modern power metal sound. The same harder structure progressed further on ‘Satanic curses’, which at times the tracks almost bordered on thrash metal. ‘Fireangel’, their newest effort is a revert back to the sound of their early days (‘Regressus’, ‘Never-ending’), but keeping that heavier aggression found on ‘Savage souls’. Mystic Prophecy have always prided themselves on their ability to make splendid and memorable riffs, melodies and solos, and this is very much the same for ‘Fireangel’. I like to compare their style of riffs and melodies to bands like Firewind and also early Primal Fear. Vocalist Roberto Dimitri Liapakis is perfect for this kind of sound, as his strong and throaty voice really packs a punch with each track.
I feel that there is a lot more creativity and preparation on this CD, compared to their previous release ‘Satanic curses’. Reverting back to their original sound, which made ‘Regressus’ so enjoyable, has brought back a lot of melody in their sound and also in the voice of Liapakis; which is one of his amazing strong points. Still retaining their recent aggressive element which stood tall in the last 2 releases, the combination melded together is indeed a winning combination. There are, still, a few ferocious thrash sounding tracks to be found on ‘Fireangel’, in the names of “Death under control” and “We kill!! You die!!”. Both songs contain thundering double-bass, fast and furious riffs and aggressive vocals; including a death metal growl at the start of “We kill!! You die!!”. There is no doubt that both those tracks are standouts on the release.
The guitar orientated melodic tracks which Mystic Prophecy are renown for, were overshadowed on their last 2 CDs, but make a welcomed return on ‘Fireangel’. I speak of the brilliant “Demons crown” in this instance. A slower but bombastic track, full of angst and emotion; Liapakis is on fire behind the mic. With a catchy hard rocking chorus and solo, “Demons crown” is easily one of the best tracks on the CD. “Father save me” and “To the devil I pray” are both tracks reminiscent of Mystic Prophecy’s earlier work. Quite melodic, with a touch of groove metal thrown in, the 2 tracks are prime examples of why ‘Fireangel’ is a top-notch CD. Other tracks that will get your head banging include the CD opener “Across the gates of hell” (a superior mix of old and new), the title track “Fireangel” (bombastic, speedy and melodic track full of power and force), and “Revolution evil” (slow building track, disguising itself as a ballad, but then rips into a thumping fist-shaking riff with an awesome “sing-a-long” chorus).
Overall, I’d make a claim here and say that ‘Fireangel’ is arguably the most consistent and well-balanced CD Mystic Prophecy have released to date; and if that classifies as their best CD, then so be it. On previous releases, there has always been just that little something which didn’t make the CD whole, but ‘Fireangel’ has filled in all the holes and is a very solid and very good release, that pleasantly surprised me, and should surprise you too. Die hard fans of the band, the purchase of this CD is a no-brainer; while fans of power/melodic metal and modern heavy metal should make an effort to track this one down.
Originally written for www.metalcdratings.com
Mystic Prophecy certainly want to be the biggest and meanest band on the power metal block. Every element of Fireangel really seems focussed on kicking the asses of every other band that has tried to give the non-extreme side of metal a harder edge. The production is heavy, dirty and immense, the vocals are low and visceral by power metal standards with occasional harsh backing vocals, the riffs are stomping and speedy, the band would sooner wrap themselves in barbed wire than resort to needless balladry, and the lyrics and themes are largely foreign to the genre with an almost unfaltering focus on Satan, hell and death. This is all good by me, but there's something cheap about the way they go about it. I don't want to call it insincere, as this isn't poseurish, but the band really seems to have taken the easy way out to create an image of being heavy as all hell, rather than actually be it. It's still good, don't get me wrong, apart from "Fight Back the Light" I wouldn't consider any of these songs weak, but the whole experience is marred to an extent.
So, how does such a good formula manage to be less than mindblowing? It's a combination of factors mainly focussing the lyrics and riffs. While the album does pack in a nice share of very nice speedy, chaotic and almost thrashy riffs, the vast majority are more or less chugged and fairly bland. These riffs aren't poor as such, they convey all the energy the music demands, but they don't have much in the way of character or actual venom. The vast majority aren't really all that memorable, the vocals and typically driving drumming are the real force that powers this album. That’s not to say that Markus Pohl and Constantine are poor riffists, but compare the opening riff to “Death Under Control” to the chorus of “Across the Gates of Hell”, and it’s easy to see that the “Death Under Control” riff is much better. It's fast, attention grabbing and thrashy, but these sort of throat grabbing riffs are pretty rare. Most of the riffs on the album are simple 5 or 6 note chugs which take advantage of the excellent production job.
The vocals are pretty good, Roberto Dimitri Liapakis has a unique voice, he kind of sounds out of breath with a kind of airy touch to his lower than usual singing, but it actually sounds alright, even if it does take a couple of listens to get into fully. His vocal lines are very well done, and he certainly helps these otherwise fairly bland riffs appear pretty aggressive. Where the problem comes is the lyrics. At first, they're quite refreshing, they avoid the power metal norms and relish in a love of Satan, death and general violence, but by about “Revolution Evil”, it all starts to sound pretty silly. They're not that badly written, but the themes sound pretty ridiculous when delivered in the style they are. Again I can't help but feel that the band is trying a bit too hard to be the bad boys of power metal, and it lacks care and sincerity. In fact, the lyrics, while constantly reiterating that the band and Lucifer are close friends, almost seem like they're written by hardcore Christians trying to shock other hardcore Christians. Its less "Fuck your God" and more "God is pretty sweet, but we're too evil to really deserve to hang around with him, as cool as that would be".
This isn't to say that Fireangel isn't as much fun as all the Satanism and pseudo-brutality would have you believe, but I can't help but feel that the album projects an image more exciting than the music it really delivers. There is a lot of consistency to the record, with every song apart from “Fight Back the Light” being pretty rocking. Despite the fact that meaty grooving riffs drive most of the action, and there are no ballads or even half-ballads in sight, there are enough little additions to the songs to keep things interesting, some songs have some almost trashy speed driven sections, some songs have more melody than others, most songs have brief yet attention grabbing solos, and "Forever Betrayed" even manages to pull off the dreaded single note power chord chorus with surprising success. The formula never changes, but there are enough little differences from song to song to keep it fresh.
The production is probably the biggest standout of the album; it hides the lack of substance to the riffs, it adds to the hooks, it makes the decent drumming sound absolutely pummelling. This is a sound that would suit thrash more than power metal, but it works, and really helps the band drive home their ideas more effectively than they would have otherwise.
Mystic Prophecy's 6th offering is a solid album, and there is a lot of fun to be had and as far as chug based power metal goes, this is one of the best albums around. If you don't concentrate too much or try to dissect it into individual elements there is some headbanging to be had here. However, the riffs really let it down under any sort of focus or scrutiny, the themes are pretty fitting, but the lyric delivery is all wrong, and comes off a silly, and while obviously not serious, it seems a little bit too careless. The band obviously wants to be aggressive, but they try way too hard to show how mean and aggressive they are, and have neglected actually being mean and aggressive. Even still, if you want some straight forward aggression pumped into some power metal this is a good place to look, said aggression is largely an illusion created by the production and attitude, but it's still a lot of fun.
Mystic Prophecy have established themselves as a go-to band for decent power metal, yet they eschew the anthem driven German veneer of their peers to produce a heavier style that almost borders on thrash. 6th album Fireangel is another solid effort, though it doesn't quite live up to some of their past albums like Savage Souls. The band have had numerous lineup changes since the previous Satanic Curses, adding new drummer Stefan Dittrich (Karkadan, Saidian), bassist Connie Andreszka (Circle of Pain) and melodeath guitarist Constantine (Descending, Nightrage) into their mixed Greco-Germanic troupe.
Like most of the material on this album, "Across the Gates of Hell" starts well enough, with some plowing, low end guitars thrash dowsed in Roberto Dimitri Liapakis' vocals. He's got a fairly mid range compared to many peers, but it does work well with the more powerful thrust of the guitars. The chorus isn't quite as catchy as one would hope, but "Demons Crown" is a more powerful song altogether, with some forceful vocals and an escalating nature worthy of its title. "We Kill! You Die!" is faster, with brazen speed metal guitars and a thrashing bridge rhythm in the verse. "Father Save Me" has a dirtier blues metal edge to it, reminding me of the 2nd Halford solo album. Other worthwhile tracks include the title track "Fireangel", a real rager, and the triumphant punch of "Gods of War".
Studio-wise, Fireangel sounds just about as good as any of the band's previous works, in particular the guitars and vocals really blaze the tracks with a nice crunch to them. The vocals are charming enough and there are enough riffs to captivate your attention for a short while. If you can find the 2-CD Digipak version of this album, you get some Japanese bonus tracks and live material. Some of these tracks like "Crimson Devastation" are just as good as anything on the main disc, and the lives are alright if you enjoy Mystic Prophecy and actually care for live recordings (though the vocals sound shaky on a few of them). Fireangel is not some mold-breaking power metal release, not even a high point for the band, but considering they supplanted more than half the band for this, it's got enough shine to appeal to fans.
I have found myself listening to Mystic Prophecy's new album, "Fireangel" more times than I would have cared to in order to come up with something interesting to say about it, but right now I'm getting bored of trying so here goes anyway. Mystic Prophecy are a German/Greek power metal band (can I end it now PP?) who sound how you would expect a German/Greek power metal band to sound - loud, proud and heavy metal to the core.
Shall we start with what is good about "Fireangel", MP's album number 6? The production is of course clear and concise - every drum hit perfectly weighted and audible, all string departments in their correct position and of course a vocalist in R.D. Liapakis who has a very strong set of pipes, capable of hitting harsh low tones and the shattering higher ones comfortably. The album cover is well crafted, if you like the typically busy, graphical style favoured by 'modern' sounding bands (I don't), telling a story with these various factors present in its dark construction. And well, there's a few shredding solos here and there, but frankly nothing you wouldn't have heard in this genre before.
But let's get to where the money is: the songs. There are two devastatingly crucial facets in which I believe MP fail in this area. Firstly, the diversity of song is minimal. Not just on this album, not just within this band, but the entire fucking genre. In what must be 95% of heavy/power metal songs you can pretty accurately predict how the song will flow - when the chorus will hit, when it will speed up and slow down... When you're 15 and first discover this style it is cool and interesting but not to an old fart like myself. Failure two, and this is the biggy: the riffs. If you pay attention to the key one or two riffs that each song is based on, can you hum them? Would you say they are 'interesting', or 'well-written'? Will they encourage a kid to pick up a guitar in order to play THAT riff? I find similarities in the riffs and song construction of Mystic Prophecy to obvious names like Firewind, Sacred Steel, Edguy, Lion's Share and Dream Evil - they all at most will have one or two great riffs but the majority will be monotonous and non-descript and very similar to each other.
Mr. Liapakis sounds unnervingly similar to Tim Aymar, best known as the vocalist in Control Denied's only album "The Fragile Art of Existence". This is a great compliment to him, but serves as a benchmark to show how originality and finesse bled into heavy metal can result in gems like those Chuck Schuldiner and co created. Noone in metal will ever touch his ability but it begs the question - why settle for third rate when there is so much better out there? Of course though, if you are 35 and German or Greek, or 15 and still growing your hair long, then none of these statements apply and you are permitted to enjoy "Fireangel", just without me.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
Talk about a pleasant surprise. I liked Mystic Prophecy's last album Satanic Curses, and I've enjoyed everything else I've heard from them, but I did not expect them to churn out something this cool after five albums. This is still the same Mystic Prophecy as before, but this time the songwriting is better, the riffs are better and the vocals are more aggressive. In every respect, Fireangel is a tremendous album that can knock heads with Heaven & Hell and Herman Frank in 2009's big battle of riff-tastic Heavy Metal, and I fucking love it.
Take everything good about Satanic Curses - the stomping, arena-like riffs with their demonic, angry twist, the vocals of R.D. Liapakis and the smooth, powerful melodies he belts out, and the heavy-as-a-fucking-brick production job - and multiply it by ten, and you have this album. I have not headbanged this hard in ages. The riffs on here are catchy, confident and completely metal to the core, striking your ears with the force of a truck of anvils and a hugely crunchy, rich tone that I just love. This stuff will make you want to air-guitar and headbang and sing along until you collapse. There are no weak tracks, no quiet intros, no ballads, nothing - just pure, smoldering steel in the truest possible fashion, and it never fucking stops coming at you. These songs are a good deal more complex than the ones on the last album, too, with more riffs and faster tempos in general, and it's all tied together with this dark, wrathful atmosphere that I really love. Everything just sounds more professional as well as more aggressive, and in my books, that makes this one stand out from the band's moderate catalogue.
I mean, really, if you like metal at all, how can you say no to tracks like the excellent opener "Across the Gates of Hell"? You can't, along with songs like the ripping, cathartic "We Kill! You Die!," the furious melodic riff-fest "Father Save Me," the complete non-stop Satanic ownage of "To the Devil I Pray," the catchy title track...fuck, they're all good. I guess the second half of the album isn't as strong as the first, but it's still very strong, and for powerful, evil Heavy Metal in 2009, Mystic Prophecy's Fireangel is a winner that you won't want to pass up.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com