MYSTIC CHARM - Shadows of the Unknown (MEMENTO MORI - CD 2013)
Dutch death metal scene from the early / mid 90’s was something truly special, in my opinion, and the number of killer bands there was just very impressive and this is also a reason why I always thought that Holland has the best death metal underground along with the Sweden. I am not going to bring now the names of all these killer and totally classic bands, there is no point, but I strongly believe that whoever reads it, then he knows these bands as well. And I do not mean just these well known bands, which had contracts with major metal labels, but also those smaller ones, which maybe only manage to put out couple of demos or something, but still were just damn cool. And I mention Dutch death metal scene here for some reason… I am going to review now one of such classic but relatively little known death bands from the old days. They were called Mystic Charm. This was kind of special band, because – just as Acrostichon – they also had a female vocalist, Rini Lipman, whose vocals were one of the things, which made the sound of Mystic Charm kind of special, you know? Anyway, the band has released some good stuff in the past; “Endless Sickness” demo 1992, “Lost Empire” EP 1993 and finally “Shadows of the Unknown” CD 1994. I remembered the album briefly, as I used to have it on cassette years ago, but it got lost somewhere... And I never had a chance to get the CD version of the album (there never was LP version, which I hope shall be fixed one day and someone will invest his money to release it on vinyl!), so I was quite happy seeing Memento Mori re-issuing “Shadows of the Unknown” on CD. I got this re-release and finally can listen to Mystic Charm again!
To describe the musical style of “Shadows of the Unknown”, it is quite easy. Doom / death metal – voila! Yeah, while the basis of the band’s style lies within the death metal realm, their music is just filled with the doomy stuff; tempos are mostly slow, kind of sorrowful, the same goes for the melodies and overall atmosphere of the music. Certainly it is not an album for those, who seek for brutality, gore, low vocals, fast tempos and shredding guitars. But then if you enjoy such bands as As Serenity Fades, early The Gathering, Spina Bifida, Beyond Belief, Mythic and so on and on, then you may want to take a listen and I am sure that you’ll like Mystic Charm. I cannot say that “Shadows of the Unknown” is a very heavy and brutal record. I guess the production is quite weird here and is one of the reasons why for some of you this album won’t be heavy and brutal enough. And for doom / death it may even be not depressive enough hehe! Anyway, the band did manage to create dark and gloomy atmosphere, which is good, and had some really cool ideas for their music. The band tried to diverse their music, by using many atmospheric parts, which are spread all over it… So, there are used some acoustic guitars, keyboards, whispered vocals and more melodic riffs (especially in such songs as “Mystic Charms” or “Lost Empire”), so it definitely is very dark sounding album, but one can still feel that sometimes the music tends to be slightly monotonous, especially if the riffing and arrangements are relatively simple and they do not bring anything original and unheard before. Anyway, there are some truly great songs, I especially like “Mystic Charms”, “Deadly Embrace”, “Saved Soul” and “Endless Sickness”. These ghoulish vocals of Rini Pipman are something what will bring your attention as well, certainly her performance and sound of vocals only added something special to the overall sound of the band. OK, I can say once again that for some it may not be brutal enough and some would probably prefer deeper, lower vocals, but well… at least here we have something original.
This re-issue of “Shadows of the Unknown” along with the whole alum contains also the first demo of Mystic Charm, titled “Endless Sickness” and it is a great addition to the whole CD. I must sincerely admit that I kind of prefer this demo over the album, maybe because I like the production more, it is rawer, but really cool and also Rini’s vocals sounded very demonic here, which is great. This demo contains four songs, some of which were also on the album, but I can hear that some arrangements are slightly different and so are the lyrics I think.
Resuming everything, I can only recommend “Shadows of the Unknown” to all the fans of doomy death metal and I can also express my happiness that Memento Mori saved this album from ceasing in the oblivion. Shiver Records, who released this CD originally, did absolutely nothing for the band to promote this album, so it kind of laid in the third row of the death metal records, almost disappearing completely. This new CD version is cool resurrection of the album and along with the bonus demo, it also contains some liner notes in the booklet plus an alternative version of the front cover (luckily the original one is also here, so you can actually choose which cover you want to be in the front… I always go for the original, no matter how bad it was hehe!). So, well one Memento Mori.
Standout tracks: “Mystic Charms”, “Deadly Embrace”, “Saved Soul”, “Endless Sickness”
Final rate: 70/100