Time is a wonderful thing, it tends to heal wounds and make one think more mildly of things that happened in the past. When we listen to today’s Black Metal we can see new bands like Stormkeep, Vargrav and the likes get into quite popular regions of the genre and some older bands that are currently getting more (serious) attention than they initially had. But if we look on how Melodic/Symphonic Black Metal started, a lot of those bands were hardly taken seriously. I guess everyone remembers the fun that was made of bands like Hecate Enthroned, Ancient and Cradle Of Filth, now those once ridiculed records are being re-released because of high demand.
It may be a bit risky to put Mystic Circle in that same boat, as the Germans were the ultimate embodiment of ridiculed Black Metal. And somewhere, of course, it was understandable and perhaps even justified. The band did not took those strict scene aesthetics very seriously in its early years. Early pictures of the band and the infamous Legacy Magazine interview may have detracted from the magic that the still young extreme metal genre had, but I always felt that the band was mostly hated because it was hated by everyone, without really very well-founded reasons.
Okay, ‘Morgenröte, the band’s first album from 1996 was not exactly a musical masterpiece. But the band’s 1998 second album, ‘Drachenblut’, was certainly not the worst album released at the time. Mystic Circle’s recent resurgence also clearly showed there was something to be gained. For example, when comparing the latest release of Agathodaimon, a band whose 1998 debut was often used as reference of melodic Black Metal that did sound good, to Mystic Circle’s self-titled comeback, ‘Mystic Circle’ didn’t only sound much more interesting but is also selling well. I guess that made them decide to remaster ‘Drachenblut’ and reissue it on vinyl and release it at the very same time as their new and upcoming album, ‘Erzdämon’.
With its full-blown symphonic sound, Drachenblut’ brings you right back to the late 90’s, a time where the Infernal Gods Of War Tour brought Mystic Circle, supported by Graveworm, Suidakra and Stormlord, to numerous sold-out venues. It’s a sound that is inseparably tied to a certain sense of nostalgia, but if we drill it down to its musical core, ‘Drachenblut’ certainly is not all doom and gloom. A much heard complaint is that the keyboards are more prominent than the guitars, which would be equal to a false Black Metal record. Well, the synths do indeed make a huge part of the album’s musical identity, more than the guitars do, but it is the interplay between the drums, keyboards and vocals that do the trick and boost the album into the highest regions of bombast. In its original form the album sounds a little flat by today’s standards, but the remastering was splendidly done, making those big bombastic pieces even sound more grandiose.
The album consists of some interesting songs that really aren’t necessarily inferior to the more popular bands of the time. One criticism, though, is that the vibe of the album is constantly interrupted by various interludes, which actually do undermine the listening pleasure instead of adding more ambience, for which they were added in the first place. And towards the end, despite the decent 45-minute playing time, the album’s intensity does wane a bit.
Despite of all the ill speaking on the account of the band, Mystic Circle was undoubtedly part of the development of Melodic/Symphonic Black Metal as we know and enjoy it today. It might be that Mystic Circle never gets the credits for that, but a bit of rehabilitation is in order as far as I am concerned. For me personally, ‘Drachenblut’ has always been the only Mystic Circle album that kept finding its way to my ears over the past decades, so if it was for me, I think a proper vinyl issue of the album is very much in place, as it was previously only available as a picture disc.
This re-release, by the way, marks the 25th anniversary of the album, which makes you expect that ‘Infernal Satanic Verses’ will get its remastering and reissue treatment next year.