Nov 072023

(Andy Synn lavishes praise and worship on the new album from Mephorash, out Friday)

I love a band with ambition, don’t you?

Don’t get me wrong, there are often times when all I’m looking for are some meaty riffs and tasty hooks, and any band that can satisfy that craving is a band I’ll probably come back to again and again, but there’s something to be said about swinging for the fences, going the extra mile and… other, related clichés.

Whatever you want to call it, that’s exactly what Mephorash have done on Krystl-Ah, employing a twelve-person choir (paid for entirely out of their own pockets) and a variety of other instrumental embellishments and creative collaborators to help their music achieve its ultimate form.

Of course, ambition alone is no guarantee of success. It’s what you do with it, how you execute your vision, that counts. And Krystl-Ah is a prime example of that.

A word of warning, however – don’t go into this expecting a “traditional” Black Metal album, as the band themselves have already professed their desire to move beyond the strictures of the genre towards something more unique and unorthodox.

Indeed, much of their new record is closer in style (and spirit) to liturgical music (though there’s still more than enough blackened fury present to satisfy even the most jaded and demanding of corpse-painted cultists) with each of the album’s seven songs serving, in both purpose and practice, as a form of religious rite designed to aid the listener (or the practitioner) in their search for something beyond the physical and mundane.

That being said, if you’re reading this then there’s probably a good chance that you may be interested in learning a little more about the album’s objective physical properties – your subjective spiritual experience may vary – in which case you should expect to encounter a moody amalgam of ominous guitars and oppressive atmospherics, interspersed with passages of ecstatic extremity and moments of meditative calm, throughout which are interwoven a series of eerie, elegant leads and devilishly varied vocals… and that’s just in the first song!

What’s more, although the totality of Krystl-Ah presents itself as a coherent, contiguous whole, each of the individual tracks possess their own identity – from the proggy, Pink Floyd-ian grandeur and bleak, blackened intensity of “Gnosis” to the gloomy ambience and piercing melodic leads of “Soma Yoni” and the hypnotic ebb and flow between doomy solemnity and blistering intensity which makes up “Chrysallís” –  all culminating in the album’s sublime, almost seventeen minute, closer “Mephoriam”.

It’s here where the band truly reach the apex of their abilities, simultaneously soaring to new heights even as they plumb the darkest of depths, pushing the envelope as they shift from haunting ambience to harrowing fury, crooning clean vocals giving way to caustic howls and choral harmonies as the layers of shining synths, shimmering strings, and strident guitars all build together towards a stunning crescendo.

Krystl-Ah is not, if you hadn’t already guessed, an album designed with a casual audience or mass-appeal in mind. It’s an album which demands your full attention, without distraction or diversion, before it will even begin to reveal its secrets. And, even then, chances are it will only truly make sense to a chosen few.

But that’s ok. Because I can’t imagine that Mephorash – a band who have long since rejected the idea of ever fitting in, or playing by the rules – would want it any other way.

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