Every once in awhile, I get the desire to snag a proto-metal release. And no, I don’t mean another Mercyful Fate worship record. OK, so there’s a little of that here, but this is something a touch older. While not quite the same as Death Alley‘s fantastic 2015 release, Black Magic Boogieland, Mausoleum Gate‘s newest record does share a few influences. While Death Alley sticks with the upbeat rock ‘n’ roll of Motörhead, Captain Beyond, and Blue Öyster Cult, Finland’s Mausoleum Gate goes for dark, jamming, progressive song structures, with a fuck-ton of organs. Like, Deep Purple levels of organ. And this is where, I suspect, readers will be split. If you aren’t the type to buy an original print of Machine Head (even if it’s fifty cents), Into a Dark Divinity ain’t for you. But, old-timers looking for an interesting combination of BÖC and Purple, with hints of Angel Witch, should read on.
If you are neither of the two groups mentioned above, but are, in fact, a fan of the band, I guarantee you dug their self-titled debut. It roams along the perimeter roads of Deep Purple and Mercyful Fate then covers everything between. Songs like “Magic of the Gypsy Queen” and “There Must Be Demons” are downright hooking and the epic, eleven-and-a-half minute “Mausoleum Gate” might be their best. All have their originality and the right amount of old-school nostalgia. So much so that, before I knew it, I was dropping seven Euros—despite that horrendous artwork. Unfortunately, for Into a Dark Divinity, this means there’s something to live up to.
And, just moments into opener “Condemned to Darkness,” Its already lost me. Sure, those soothing vocals, gentle guitar leads, and the Sabbath/Angel Witch-like mood have a lot going for it. But this nine-and-a-half-minute piece falls flat, especially in comparison to massive achievements of “Mausoleum Gate.” For better or worse, this isn’t the end of the lengthy pieces. Unlike Mausoleum Gate, Into a Dark Divinity has two other ten-minute pieces trying to dethrone the band’s self-titled epic. “Apophis” is up next. Still not quite at the level I was hoping, but the dark Mercyful Fate introduction sets a sinister tone. The doomy, drawn-out vocal approach is the same used by the opener, but the ascensions and descensions of its eleven-minute length work better. The chorus is more engaging and the finale is one helluva good time. It’s got over-the-top keys, a solid MF riff, and an explosion of drums, guitars, vocals, and organs to finish it off.
Despite the epic build and explosion of “Apophis,” the title track is the epic piece the album has been longing for. After opening with a beautiful, almost Eagles-like acoustic lick, the vocals arrive much as they did on “Condemned” and “Apophis.” This time, though, they have more command and power. And here is where the builds begin. First, the keys set it up. Then there’s piano, then melodic licks, and finally alternating guitar and key solos. And when you think it’s all over, it builds and builds even more. Once the growing instrumentation and keyboard atmospheres climax, the explosion reduces the song back into a soothing acoustic guitar outro. The band pours every ounce of their being into this one and it pays off.
Scattered between these three lengthy tracks are three others—ranging from three-to-four minutes in length. But two of them (“Burn the Witches at Dawn” and “Horns”) might as well be the same song. Both are cut from the same cloth and have identical roles: to put some umph back into the record after “Condemned to Darkness” and solid “Solomon’s Key,” respectively. Neither are bad, but their short, simple approaches make them surprisingly forgettable. Especially “Burn the Witches at Dawn.” Its chorus may be catchy, but it’s placement between “Condemned” and “Apophis” makes it an apparition that flies by at 100 mph.
After all that, Mausoleum Gate is superior to Into a Dark Divinity. The lengthier tracks use a combination of clean and distorted guitars, soaring vocals, and key-driven atmospheres to produce layers upon layers of ’70s rock. But three on one record is too much. I suppose the positive of this is that lovers of all those keys and organ oughta get their fill. But, if you hate that old-school keyboard blare, there’s not much I can do to convince you to give Into a Dark Divinity a try. At least the dynamics are there and every one of those layers is crystal clear. But, Into a Dark Divinity ain’t for everyone. I suppose all those old-timers out there might get a kick out of Mausoleum Gate‘s nostalgiacore.