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A minor step down, but no cause for concern. - 75%

Diamhea, December 7th, 2017

These Russians blew me away with Solarstorm a couple of years back, so its nice to see them back in the studio, but Mirror City isn't what it appears to be at first blush. This is actually the band's first demo, re-recorded and glossed over with that pristine Russian melodeath ensconcement that I so enjoy. The funny thing is, these tracks are even older than the band's current incarnation. This obviously presents a problem: was the songwriting as polished during that period, and if not, can the band resurrect these numbers to stand next to their strong back catalogue?

Well, Mirror City is certainly not going to set new standards for the band, feeling a bit thrown together and unfinished at times. The production is perhaps the biggest offender here, sounding empty and forceless on the whole. The keys sound tinny and plastic, although the leads still shine like a supernova when isolated properly. I found Mirror City a difficult album to dissect song-by-song, as very few moments stand out in that capacity. The tracks sort of run together, almost sounding as if the band is just improvising their way through the record.

And the funny thing is, even with these handicaps, Sympuls-e still smokes the majority of their peers. "Silver Wings" is a scattershot melodeath treat, with leads that bob and weave effortlessly between the staggered rhythm section. "City of the Void" and "A Prisoner of Myself" are also standouts, given the criterion mentioned above. I did enjoy what the synths attempt to do here, with lots of atmospheric, icy interjections that add to that supremely polished aesthetic the band revels in.

Mirror City still works, and it is nice to see a band re-record older material like this and not half-ass it. Just don't expect anything like "Wanderer," since the clean vocals are somewhat restrained here. I also miss the female vocalist from the last album. Still plenty of sticky leads and melodies, so give it a whirl. I certainly didn't regret it.