Brazilian Black Metallers Mystifier are a bit like the humble Coelacanth, a strange creature seldom seen and often assumed dead, but still rising from the depths now and then to remind us all it’s still there and will doubtless outlive us all.
Staring blank-eyed at its thirtieth anniversary, Mystifier predated the second wave of Black Metal while at the same time leaving its mark on the scene’s early sound. Naturally, when a band that good turns up, it gets ignored, and so Mystifier ended up a footnote, its minor 1996 classic, The World Is So Good That Who Made It Does Not Live Here (Osmose), criminally overlooked, at least in the west.
Fast forward to 2019, and Mystifier’s fifth album, Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia (Season of Mist) gives us a perfect excuse to revisit the band and drool over its greatness. Like most veteran bands with any sense, they have kept their sound intact but still tried to make it sound fresh, the subject matter now not only dwelling on the ol’ Satanism but political themes ranging from terrorism to clerical sex abuse.
They’ve worked hard on this album, and it shows. While there are huge riffs and catchy chords, each song has layer upon layer of sections, breakdowns, tempo shifts and tangents. The vocals rasp, hiss and shriek, as you’d expect, but it’s really the drums and guitars that stand out, as they speed up and slow down with great skill, hit a hook, but then do something completely different before you have time to get bored.
Track six (six, six?), ‘Demoler las Torres del Cielo’, neatly sums the album up, without making the rest of it redundant. It channels the band’s roots while blasting away with licks, the vocals (quite literally) cackling like a mad hell hound. And yet, just when you think you know what will happen next, it changes the formula and drags you along a new avenue or three.
Naturally, this is Black Metal as it was, Thrash-stained and nigh-on operatic at points, before it was dragged off into a land of blizzards, arson and murder by a load of very odd Norwegians. It sounds like it’s from another era, and makes no apologies for it. It’s no nostalgia trip, either, though, and like that fish from the Age of the Dinosaurs, Mystifier carries on, both ancient and vital in equal measure.
8 / 10