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Mithras
Behind the Shadows Lie Madness

Company: Candlelight Records
Release: 2007
Reviewer: Etiam
Rating: 3.5



A few years ago, Candlelight Records entered a phase of renewal. Like its phoenix logo, the label reinvented itself as a modern, tech-savvy, and significantly more diverse company with a roster of bands ranging from new-age deathcore to trad-metal to aged cult icons. Somewhere along the way, they also picked up a little-known UK band that had been grinding out an existence on small underground labels since the 90's. This group was Mithras. Thankfully not lost in the shuffle of new artists, Mithras would see their first two LP's soon reissued, but a new album would not surface until this year. Entitled 'Behind The Shadows Lie Madness', it introduces to the metal world at large the Leon Macey and Rayner Coss duo, one of the most original and esoteric in extreme metal.

As with all Mithras albums, 'Behind the Shadows...' is built from the bottom up, beginning with its rhythm section. Macey, who handles both guitars and drums, approaches each instrument with similarly-brutish riffing with technical and harmonic flourishes framed by constant drum blasts and fills that lurch like a tank shifting gears at 50 mph. Also as usual, Macey's guitar sounds straight from the shower stall (i.e. extremely tinny), which results in some highly unusual song textures, particularly during the solos. Perhaps this sound is one of Mithras's defining characteristics, but it does make the band more difficult to appreciate-a hard enough feat for some already-and all but obscures Coss's bass in the mix. Not to be overshadowed, though, Coss does make his presence felt with brusque, nearly shouted vocals that tell of strange spiritual quests and alien realms. His delivery relies on a single pitch and direct, often iambic rhythms, but it suits the music. The only variation is a clean vocal line used in the verse of 'To Fall from the Heavens', mimicking the opening riff, and is actually quite successful.

The final and most recognizable element of Mithras's sound is the wandering, reverb-saturated soloing. Beginning and ending on unexpected beats and pitches, the majority of the solos carry on with apparent abandon, seeming to lack any rhythm or form. Repeated listens, however, show this not to be the case. Freewheeling though they are, Macey's solos can all be related back to the frenetic foundation from which they stem and as they progress seem to elevate the entire composition, rather than leaving the rest behind. Also scattered throughout the album are the obligatory synthesized interludes, as lush and polyphonic as ever, though perhaps more prudently executed this time around. Easy enough to skip after the first listen, they do help develop the ethereal atmosphere generated by the solos from the rest of the album.

While the above description does indeed include some experimental techniques, Mithras have been using them extensively (except the clean vocals) throughout the majority of their existence. As such, 'Behind the Shadows...' doesn't introduce much in the way of instrumentation or song structures. Far from idle, though, Coss and Macey have worked at perfecting the elements they do use and honing their chemistry as a two-man group. Past albums have some songs that feel rushed and fall short of their potential; on 'Behind the Shadows...' most of the wrinkles in Mithras's approach have been ironed out.

As a result, 'Behind the Shadows Lie Madness' features some of the band's smartest and sturdiest compositions to date and is ultimately a success on two fronts. The first is with old fans who may have doubted the band's ability to bounce back after four years of dormancy, particularly considering the mixed reviews of 'World Beyond the Veil'. On the other front, they prove to a new audience that Akercocke isn't the UK's only mind-bending death metal export. In fact, Mithras might even be better.
Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.



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Behind the Shadows Lie MadnessMithras
2007
Etiam1/2/2008


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