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When looking at the power metal spectrum, you find a divide between the continents of North America and European. North American (particularly United States) power metal is much more guitar centric and faster then most of it's European counterparts, and often is heavily rooted in the works of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Head over to Europe and you get a more keyboard oriented, polished, and neo classical power metal that everyone and their brother's Stratovarius clone is doing for the most part. You do find exceptions to the rule though, and one of these exceptions is Mystic Prophecy. This half Greek half German outfit that's probably best known for being one of the stepping stones in Firewind mastermind and Ozzy Osbourne guitarist has been cranking out some of the heaviest power metal out there since 2000, and the first album I was fortunate to own by them was 2003's Regresseus.
This is not European power metal for the most part. The only major thing Mystic Prophecy has in common with many of it's predecessors and colleagues across the Atlantic is their location in Germany. All of this is on display in Regresseus. No keyboards, one (very good) guitar player, and lyrics that have nothing in common with probably ninety seven percent of European power metal, it's all here for the listener on Regressus, a roaring affair of power metal fire and brimstone that loses pace as it goes on.
The one thing that really strikes me about Regressus is just how heavy this music is in a power quartet. Mystic Prophecy in recent history has since moved away from this configuration, but back in 2003 they had the guitar talent to more then make up for the lack of a second guitarist or a keyboard player to fill the void. RD and company here did an amazing job making a series of power metal tunes that truly push the boundaries of just how heavy real power metal can be. To this date, I have been very hard pressed to find European power metal heavier then Regresseus, and I have not been very successful.
Regressus is really driven entirely by the performance of Greek guitar Olympiad Gus G. In many ways this album would not sound nearly as good without a guitarist of Gus's caliber. Gus is really well known as a shredder and someone who clearly can clearly play a mean guitar solo whenever he feels like it. But what most people who listen to Firewind don't realize is just how good of a riff writer Gus is. These riffs on Regressus are clear cut proof that. The riffs in songs such as Eternal Flame, Lords of Pain, Night of the Storm, When Demons Return, and the title track are absolutely way heavier and more interesting then your typical power metal riff. Throw on top of that Gus knew how to craft riffs to perfectly match the choruses and different sections that are required to have more emotion, such as the clean part to start the title track and the chorus in Forgotten Soul. When you mix these good qualities with the solo work Gus does on this album, you think you would have a pretty good power metal album right?
Unfortunately that's not the case. The problem is that not all the riffs are good, and in fact most of them are kind of boring. The problem gets into the verses of the songs, where Mystic Prophecy frequently feels the need to turn the verses into breakdown sections that break from the prevailing melody of the song more often then not. This reveals a stunning fact about these riffs, they're often made up of a lot of one or two chord palm muted chugging, and it gets old fast. This is where you start to see Mystic Prophecy is trying to focus on American aspects of power metal in a European fashion, with riffs that clearly are meant to go with a keyboard providing harmony much of the time rather then standing on their own. While Mystic Prophecy does do a great job of making distinct riffs for the verses and choruses, and often this helps to offset the repetitive nature of the music, you can't help but notice that the band is not really doing anything different from song to song.
Within this we find the other musicians. Bassist Martin Albercht you would think has his work cut out for him in a European power metal power quartet like Mystic Prophecy, right? Not really. Because of all the chugging and palm muting and the two chord riffs for the most part, Albrecht's bass work is really nothing special and only serves to fill the void in between Gus's solos and the drums when Gus plays a lead. On the other hand though, Dennis Ekdahl is clearly a very competent and well used drummer. There is a lot of double kick use on Regressus, and he makes a lot of great use of this. He keeps the time well, but aside from that and his double bass skills, there isn't much that really wows you about Ekdahl as a power metal drummer.
This brings me to our frontman and mastermind, vocalist RD Liapakis. RD's voice is one that is rather unique for power metal. His overall voice is more in the low end for a power metal vocalist, somewhat akin to a less bombastic version of Iced Earth's Matt Barlow. His vocal stylings change to a degree throughout the verses and choruses, they are more gruff and lower in the verses and higher and more melodic in the choruses. Overall, RD's performance is pretty well done for the most part. The choruses are really catchy and some are sing along worthy thanks to his vocals and patterns, and he conveys the lyrics pretty well.
I have not really been able to totally grasp the multi-album concept of Mystic Propechy, but what I do understand is that involves a revenge story with the protagonist being a murdered priest who comes back from the afterlife as sort of a demigod half demon thing and routinely tries to beat out death. Once again, I'm not quite sure if this is the case but it's alright. The lyrics are riddled with mythic proportions of fire and brimstone, talks of demons possessing people and dragging them back into hell are rampant, and it is is pretty safe to say they have a mystic side to them. Mystic Prophecy clearly has paid attention to the Book of Revelation, for the lyrical content reflects the bombastic and over the top near hysterical imagery and descriptions of the last book in the bible. Frankly, they are rather corny after awhile and I feel like sometimes they're singing about the same thing in each individual song. Not a good sign in the lyrical department.
Regressus has a pretty good mix for the most part. It is a really loud album that does not need to have the speakers cranked for it to be near deafeningly loud. The guitars are crystal clear, with the riffs punishing you brutally and every note in the solos and harmonies wailing like a banshee when it matters the most. The drums sound good, though the cymbals could definitely have been given more cut in the mix and there is a little too much emphasis on the double bass sound. The bass is mostly low end frequencies, but it is there and apparent when it needs to be there.
Mystic Prophecy's second album opens up with a track called Calling from Hell. Really this album is more of a voicemail from hell. While it seeks to be heavier and darker then most power metal usually is by a long shot, this album falls into a trap of repetitive riffs and boring over the top lyrics that leave the definition. Mystic Prophecy's last album as a power quartet is a good outing in American styled power metal, but you will find much better out there in the epic realms of this genre.
Holy fucking shit! The riffs!
Now let me elaborate a bit on why I checked this cd out. Normally I am not a power metal fan at all (there goes my credibility to review this). Sure there are a handful of bands that kick my ass, but I usually find that even if there happens to be solid riffing, time and time again the vocalist ruins everything. With that in mind I likely never would have checked Mystic Prophecy out, but of course they boast guitarist Gus G in their ranks. I am a fan of Nightrage, and his guitar playing is phenomenal on their Sweet Vengeance album. I also think that Dream Evil is pretty fun to listen to, and without Gus G it probably wounldn't be as enjoyable. Thus, my reasoning to investigate, though I never could have foreseen this album being so great.
All throughout this cd, which is mainly mid paced, there isn't a single bad song. There's no supper happy power metal wankery that I dont enjoy, the music is ultra heavy. With a goldy production, every instrument is capable of coming out of your speakers and killing you. The memorable songs move from great riff to great riff, every single one qualified to make any metal fan headbang. The solos, well, if you don't already know that Gus G is a guitar virtuoso, let me assure you, he most certainly is.
Now the vocals are what put this album on the favorite album list for me. R.D. Liapakis of Valley's Eve (whom I am currently unfamiliar with) has a rough mid ranged manly power metal voice. Eureka! This is the perfet voice to go along with this music while keeping it fucking heavy! No weakly falsetto vocals here.
The drums help this cd a lot as well, they are right up front and doing just what they need to do to work with the riffs. Did I mention I am a fan of Raise Hell and Sins of Omission? Well thats where the drummer comes from. Mystic Prophecy is no mere project though, through their almost epic songs, they prove they are utterly dedicated to the music.
This album is unforgettable and will likely remain among my favorites for a long time coming. I may as well suggest a couple tracks for those of you who may be sceptical about how great this cd really is (since I may sound like a fanboy, or perhaps my opinions aren't valid enough). Be sure to crank the volume to 11 for Calling From Hell and Signs of the Cross. Actually, I should list every song, because they are all great, and it would have made the review a bit longer.