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Mystic Circle > The Great Beast > Reviews > autothrall
Mystic Circle - The Great Beast

Steady symphonic BM worth another listen - 75%

autothrall, January 14th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2001, CD, Massacre Records

Mystic Circle has long been a band so invested in the law of black metal averages that it's no wonder they made so little impact. The Germans are by no means bad musicians, not even bad composers, but they just hit at a time in which the Scandinavian acts meddling in this sort of melodic and symphonic black metal were literally exploding across the map, and though this group kept churning out numerous releases, they just never garnered the same level of excitement beyond deep-diving BM fans who were snatching up everything in the genre. The Great Beast isn't quite as flagrant or interesting as Emperor's first three discs, or even as pompous and potent as the Dimmu Borgir catalogue of the 90s, but honestly it's one of the better Mystic Circle records and those who are really into the current wave of symphonic 90s black metal throwbacks might actually enjoy going back to this authentic, also-ran article.

The band is hardly sinister-enough sounding to really do their Satanic theme justice here, but I do like the bombastic swell of the mid-paced, roiling black metal against the near-constant orchestration which calls to mind Gothic castles and haunted landscapes. The riffing is quite steady, often with a thrashing facade to its structure, but very often the rhythm guitars feel like they're afraid to strike out on their own, but rather they support the ethereal sweep and strings. That said, there are plenty of leads and melodies that show the band hasn't entirely thrown out the guitar as mere support, and it's rather a well-rounded recording, because the symphonic are elegant and really immerse me into the occult escapism. The vocals are a fairly monotonous rasped guttural, a little deeper than some of their black metal peers, but they fit in well, and the rhythm section is more than capable, making The Great Beast an extremely well-rounded effort with a nice production that sounds clean without becoming neutered through over-polish.

There are lots of licks here that sound like a IX: Equilibrium-lite or a less dense Spiritual Black Dimensions, but by no means does it fall down to cheap impersonation, this was always a band that wanted to take that earlier symphonic BM style and run with it. While The Great Beast doesn't manifest the same personality as those comparisons/influences, it's a pretty good listen that only suffers from a slightly monotonous pacing, since this isn't a band prone to blasting off endlessly, and it might have benefited from a few more such indulgences. But everything is tasteful, from the spectral female support vocal to the endless nightscape of orchestration that is really going to sit well with the more Gothic-oriented black metal advocate. Definitely one of their better albums, along with its follow-up Damien; fits the bill when I'm in the mood for something that sounds equally graceful and aggressive, even if it lacks much novelty.