Review by Vladimir on November 14, 2023.
In the world of modern black metal, dominated by esoteric and spiritual bands like Cult Of Fire and two Batushkas, one strong contender that also stands out is Mephorash from Sweden. During the band’s early days, they released their first two albums via Grom Records (Serbia) and their third album 1557 - Rites Of Nullification via Odium Records (Poland), but after some years they got quite a significant reputation thanks to their fourth album Shem Ha Mephorash from 2019, and due to the recorded live show that was streaming on Black Metal Promotion in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2023, the band returns with their fifth full-length album Krystl-Ah, released on November 10th via Shadow Records. Now that the band’s status is on a higher level, the real question is: does the new album manage to justify the recognition that the band got? Stay tuned to find out…
Just like on their previous album, the band continues to push forward their esotericism through black metal, by incorporating very complex songwriting ideas that consist of traditional tremolo picking riffs, guitar melodies, clean guitar sections, harsh vocals, choir backing vocals, double-bass drumming, blast beats etc. This time it seems that the band has taken a much more grandiose approach to make their music even more epic in comparison to Shem Ha Mephorash, dominated by the frequent choir backing vocals that give their music a cinematic touch with a brilliant film score quality. Aside from the choir vocals, their complex and progressive songwriting also seems to have taken a step further to strengthen the flow of each song by conveying some form of storytelling through the music, which plays a big role next to the general atmosphere. During my listening, I always had the impression that each song is like its own chapter or as if the album is just one big collection of stories that was subtly told through the instrumental work. At times I personally felt like I was listening to an actual soundtrack rather than an album, because I didn’t feel so much like the tracks on this album were meant to be standard songs, but instead music created for a certain scene in some Hollywood movie that brings out an emotional moment or a feeling of upcoming chaos. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the band was actually heading for that kind of direction when composing the material for Krystl-Ah, considering that there are many various examples of extreme metal musicians taking notes from classical composers and even film composers as well. Like I said, the complex ideas have taken such a huge step forward that it successfully surpasses the foundation built by the predecessor Shem Ha Mephorash, and I would say that the cinematic elements are the biggest highlights of this album. Other interesting inclusions on this album that contribute something to make the overall sound and atmosphere even richer are the keyboards and piano on 'Chrysallís' and 'I Am', additional sounds like a baby’s cry on 'Gnosis', a woman’s sexual moaning on 'Soma Yoni' and church bells in 'Mephoriam'. There also seems to be some traces of psychedelic rock in their music, which is present during the first half tracks 'Gnosis' and 'Mephoriam', before continuing on with the epic second half. Production-wise, the album sounds very top notch and organic, instruments do not sound sterile or robotic which is definitely the biggest plus, while also doing a great work at pushing all the vocals forward to rightfully stand out.
I didn’t think I would enjoy this one as much as I did, but I can say with complete certainty and confidence that the album does indeed justify the respect and recognition that Mephorash has. Krystl-Ah is definitely an album that shows a great deal of ambition and dedication, with so much blood and sweat put into the entire process to make this a worthy successor to Shem Ha Mephorash, which certainly is so. This album may not be for everyone, especially if you’re not into progressive and complex black metal of the modern era, but I personally believe that people who like very unique and extraordinary ideas in any form of extreme metal will definitely praise the overall output and appreciate it as a fine work of art.
Rating: 9.1 out of 10712