Mystic Prophecy – Hellriot (Rock of Angels Records)Monday, 15th May 2023
Reliable purveyors in the power, speed, thrash-oriented metal realm, Mystic Prophecy show no signs of putting the creative accelerator on cruise control. Even through inevitable lineup changes, record label shifts, or natural evolution that occurs through maturity/experience, the quintet arrives at this eleventh studio record Hellriot poised to capture their steadfast followers with another set of headbanging affairs. The proper positioning of key members in songwriting/production roles beyond the professionalism attained in artwork, mixing / mastering, layout, etc. ensures that these musicians drill down deep to execute the best tracks for the current landscape.
The age range of the lineup (from late 20’s to mid-50’s) allows the band to sit in various influence camps – progressing forward in certain aspects while maintaining the true essence of where they’ve always sat when it comes to a heavier form of power metal than most European acts aspire to. The chunky rhythms of Markus Pohl allow lead guitarist Evan K to expand the playbook through a series of bluesy-enhanced tricks or fluid, shred tactics that weave in and out to keep engagement on initial listens into subsequent, deeper playbacks. Tighter timeframes take any unnecessary excess out the window – delivering quicker instrumental movements braced for impact, allowing the verse/chorus flow to be rock solid in a militant, forceful manner. You can get an instant one-word melody of bombastic proportions during “Paranoia” just as easily as a groovy bass run from Joey Roxx for “Rising With the Storm” – both songs going in different directions, the former a slow marching effort while the latter gathers momentum in a mid-tempo, energetic outing road ready for metalheads to grab ahold and never let go. The affinity for heavy metal is undeniable – take in the opening title cut or “Metal Attack” as the riffs slice and dice, the rhythm section support elevates the muscle behind the music, vocalist R.D. Liapakis continues his prominence as the bedrock singer powering through the tracks in that bluesy, gritty style that he achieves consistently.
The 80’s-style synth strains give “Road to Babylon” a sturdy platform for traditional riffs and hefty drums to penetrate the aural landscape – while closer “World on Fire” showcases everything from Evan K’s finger dexterity to drummer Hanno Kerstan’s quick double kick/fill expressions next to some interesting slower, almost Wild West-like ambiance before the heroic lead break takes over. When weighing Hellriot against the massive discography Mystic Prophecy has already delivered, it’s another milestone to behold as these musicians stick to a proven formula, throwing little unexpected nuances to keep things fresh, hopefully adding a few more essential live highlights to the set lists in the end.