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The tortured echoes of what never was. - 80%

hells_unicorn, April 30th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1993, CD, Relapse Records

Somewhere in the decrepit world of the deepest and darkest fringes of extreme metal circa the early 1990s sits a lone, abandoned shrine in a wintry landscape. The visual is further complemented by two barren trees at either side, standing almost as guardians of some long forgotten treasure in a swampy marshland replete with leafless trees and the blinding glare of the winter sun upon the snowy grounds. It is a depiction of unrealized potential, caught up in the craze of the day and since discarded like an obsolete mode of production in an abandoned industrial complex, and it carries a name that is all too fitting for those old school death/doom holdouts who remember the earliest days of death/doom with a female voice as inhumanly low as that of any male's, as espoused by the likes of Mythic Dawn and Derk├ęta. Such is the story of the Pittsburgh-based Mythic, and particularly their EP and final offering Mourning In The Winter Solstice, a force to be reckoned with that ceased powering forward about as soon as it began.

If there is a way to visually sum up the character of this band and this small collection of sludgy anthems to fatalism and loneliness, the aforementioned illustration would be further adorned with three lone pilgrims donning black druid attire trudging through the dank earth towards their place of worship with intermittent gusts of frosty wind and snow biting at their hooded faces. Wearing their influences on their not to proverbial shirtsleeves on their promotional photo, particularly in the case of bassist Mary Bielich sporting a Napalm Death t-shirt, the feel here is punishingly minimalist and peppered with a latent grindcore vibe at times. Apart from the occasional sampled ambient sounds that kick off the beginning of "Spawn Of Absu" (which is referred to as "Intro" on the album's track list) and a few well-placed layered barks, the atmosphere is established primarily in the power trio version of a wall of sound, with an emphasis on the murky chugs of the bass, itself often functioning as the bottom end of the guitar chords and establishing a level of depth comparable to the sludgy depths of Crowbar's eponymous effort.

Interestingly enough, in spite of the mix quality being extremely bass heavy and the guitar work being bereft of any technical showmanship, the Benediction t-shirt worn by drummer Terri Heggen is not just for show, as when this doom-obsessed coven of three decides to pick up the tempo, there is a fairly obvious nod to a more traditional grain of death metal. This is particularly the case during the thrashing segment of "Spawn Of Absu", which could almost be plugged into several select songs off The Grand Leveller without having to really modify anything apart from maybe the overly bass-heavy, fuzzy, early Incantation-inspired production. Even on the punishingly droning and dissonant crawler "Winter Solstice", things are wont to pick up a fair bit and listen fairly close to the dark, but more thrashing character of the New York death metal sound. Only the coasting middle effort "Lament Configuration" sticks to a consistent doom aesthetic from start to finish, and also showcases Bielich's bass work driving the entire song like a slower and more down-tuned Geezer Butler.

Though this project comes off as an earnest effort by three committed musicians than a gimmick project sporting three young women who were a bit too easy on the eyes to fit in with the sound they pulled off, it proved to be about as prolific as the somewhat concurrent Cycle Sluts From Hell act just ways to the northeast. It would be more bittersweet if this stylistic niche had not already enjoyed a healthy explosion in activity at the same time, albeit said ascendancy may have proved a frustrating element as there is usually a finite amount of space to be occupied by the likes of Cianide, Thorr's Hammer, and the somewhat similarly short-lived yet more widely heralded Winter, let alone the more popular acts that emerged abroad in Tiamat, Katatonia and Paradise Lost. All the same, for its somewhat low-fi production that occasionally hints at Type O Negative territory but with a real drum set, this is a very well accomplished group of songs from a capable group of musicians that would continue to contribute to the metal scene in some capacity in the coming years.