When you look back at Metal history the road to the present is littered with artists who dropped one or two records and vanished into that good night. Sometimes their contributions to the Metal world greatly outlived their actual, physical productivity. One such band was Norway’s Mysticum, who in 1996, dropped their debut, full-length album, In the Streams of Inferno, before exacting an extremely long hiatus. Released at the height of the storied ‘second wave’ of black metal lore, Mysticum’s debut was a firecracker of an album that exploded in the middle of a party that had just begun to get a little on the dull around the edges. It was a landmark in what we now call industrial black metal, but at the time really had no good way to describe it. To this day it defies common genre classifications and stands as an extremely influential part of black metal’s golden era.
Here we sit eighteen years after their debut and Mysticum have once again graced us with a full-length album, Planet Satan, an album that has been rumored to be in various stages of production since the release of the last album. The fact that it took Mysticum eighteen years to finally appease a starved fan base is most likely immaterial to black metal’s industrialized power trio. It certainly becomes immaterial to listeners upon first experiencing the maniacal musical visions held within. Once again, replete with unholy, electronic drum patterns, frenzied screams and death growls, and tinges of morbid psychedelia, Mysticum sound as tight and effective in their delivery as they ever have. Mysticum are the sonic equivalent of the arctic blasts currently engulfing North America, crippling in their grasp and leaving nothing undamaged in their wake.
From the tolling of the bell at the beginning of album opener “LSD” (sorry Beatles fans, this one stands for “Lucifer in the sky with demons”) to the dark ambiance of album closer “Dissolve Into Impiety”, this album leaves no metal stone unturned. From mid-pace blackened death metal to truly inhuman blast beats to the occasional lucid respite (not to mention the downright ass-shaking beat briefly running through the middle of “All Must End”), Planet Satan is an exercise in pure, unadulterated sonic schizophrenia. That’s not to say this album lacks vision or direction. On the contrary, this is an album that very clearly delves into varying levels of madness with purpose and unabashed gusto.
Black metal today lacks no fear when it comes to experimentation. In fact, it’s becoming somewhat of the norm. One of the bands that today’s new breed of black metal musicians can thank for that is Mysticum. It makes perfect sense then that at a height of wide-ranging experimentation, one of the second wave masters should return to reclaim their rightful spot amongst black metal’s elite.
Planet Satan is out now on Peaceville Records. You can experience portions of the album on the Peaceville Records YouTube channel.