Mid-way through thoroughly enjoying Elderoth‘s second full-length, I was shocked to find myself having internalized the lyrics “Become who you are / just like a pornstar.” Having come to this realization and self-flagellated like the moral young chap I am, I consulted the lyric booklet (eternally exalted is the band that provides more than just a shite band photo with their promos) to find to my intense relief that the lyrics were in fact “Just like a FALLING star.” Befitting of such profoundly cosmic lyrics, the release calls itself Mystic. Mystic is a curious beast indeed, fusing prog-power with a spacey feel and Eastern-influenced, Oriental (for lack of a better word) synths. Citing inspiration from Ritchie Blackmore and his awesome work on Rainbow‘s Rising in their pursuit of Eastern influences, Elderoth foolishly stacked the odds against themselves. Can you possibly believe the hype?
Of course you bloody can’t. But that doesn’t stop Mystic being anything less than a short, sweet burst of fun (I sound like the Starburst marketing department). It brims with slick melodies and despite the several music ideas bouncing around, the songs are very focused. Whether through the myriad synths or the guitar, the instrumental melodies move at a brisk pace, but are always centered around simple, hefty vocals. The choruses are instantly memorable – before you know it, you too will be eulogizing about pornstars [Ah, Seka, where is she now? — Steel Druhm]. Best in this regard is the first single, “This Shadow by My Side.” The verses are so compelling, with descending chromatic scales on the Oriental synths and the counter-melody provided by djenty riffs. But when the chorus hits, the undeniable grandiosity involuntarily obliges you to awaken your neighbor’s cat with your wailing alongside. In addition, the almost electronic, dance-pop overtone on “My Future” is pure Eurovision. Elderoth absolutely embraces its pop sensibilities – no song exceeds five minutes with the album rounding out at under thirty-five, and about thirty-three minutes of that is choruses. Their style strongly recalls Voyager – they know it well and don’t deviate.
Surprisingly, the Eastern exploration doesn’t feel shoe-horned and works well to carve a niche for Elderoth within the prog-power genre. The opening of the instrumental intro clearly demarcates this influence and the direction of the album, using stereotypical sounds and melodies which would indicate a transition to Japan in a movie. But where Mystic is most musically impressive is where the guitars undertake some of the Eastern heavy-lifting themselves, rather than just layering synths over guitar rhythms. The bridge of “Black and Blue” features this, as does the chorus on “In A Dream” and the verse on “Far in the Sea.” This interesting progression is most effective when written into the guitars, lending a subtlety which you wouldn’t expect for such a pop-heavy format.
Despite this, I think the material would benefit from greater variety. It’s largely delivered well, but it feels very safe and overly saccharine after thirty-five minutes – to continue the Starburst reference. Elderoth‘s focus is commendable but a couple more curve balls would diversify the experience and ensure that the back-end isn’t lost on the metalheads they are catering for. “The Ocean” attempts exactly this, with a thicker guitar tone and lesser synths, plus a subtle interlude to emphasise the final chorus payoff. However, this interlude drags just a little considering the pace elsewhere and the chorus is among the weakest here, rendering the payoff obsolete.
Though there are gems here, the instantly-gratifying choruses on a couple of tracks haven’t held my attention and I won’t be returning to them. Nonetheless, this is a surprisingly unique entry into my prog-power library, and I can easily commend Mystic to metal enthusiasts open to strong pop sensibilities. It’s immediate, catchy and largely entertaining. And hey, who are we to deny musical porn tributes?