Everything is retro nowadays. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a thing. I’ve heard people say that reviving significant trends from previous decades is the result of a complete lack of originality in the current one. But I think it’s simply a law of human nature. People in any given decade become fascinated with aesthetics from anywhere between 30-to-50 years ago—presumably because they’re just now (re-)discovering them—and for a while the cultural landscape morphs into this weird amalgam of modern ideas squeezed through a retrospective filter. Or, sometimes people simply mimic whatever popular thing from whatever decade they have latched on to at the time. Well, Cypriot quartet Mirror decided to latch onto the sounds of 70s and 80s rock and heavy metal, and Pyramid of Terror is their second attempt to convince the world they aren’t just a pale imitation.
They miss the mark, but not for lack of trying. If you have ever listened to Scorpions (who I couldn’t care less about), you have a good idea of from whom Mirror claim inspiration. Luckily for me, they sound much more like a blend of Mercyful Fate and Iron Maiden than a blend of anything involving Scorpions. That means galloping riffs, soaring vocals with just the right grit quotient, and tons of swagger. You’ll also note hints of bluesy rock and a faint occult bent affecting the album’s overall feel, and they bring in a lot of Eastern note progressions to their songs, especially in the back half.
Unfortunately, while the band is professional and proficient, the music is lesser than its inspiration. I won’t blame you for initially disagreeing with that point if you sample either “Pyramid of Terror,” “Master of the Deep,” “Running from the Law” or “Black Magic Tower,” as these are far and away the high points of the record. But take a closer look at the rest of the nine tracks offered and you will notice a distinct lack of energy. “I Am the Freak,” for example, starts off well but switches the beat abruptly in the second half and brutally murders the momentum the song generated up to that point. “Secrets of Time” also disappoints, with stale riffs and a lackluster vocal delivery sapping the bounce and joy this music aims to evoke. “Nitocris” might be the worst offender, attempting a prog-like beat akin to Time-era Mercyful Fate material yet my fingers exhibited no desire to tap along, an extremely rare occurrence for me.1
It’s not all doom and gloom for Mirror, though. Jimmy Mavrommatis is one charismatic vocalist (“Secrets of Time” notwithstanding), with a delicious range and perfect tone for the material. I could listen to his voice all day long into eternity. Competing with Jimmy for Most Valuable Player is Nikolas “Sprits” Moutafis, whose solos exemplify adventurousness while still remaining thematically relevant in relation to the surrounding music. Tas and Daniel Georgiou (bass and drums, respectively) are equally competent and fully present in the mix, though I do believe the songwriting squanders their talent a tad, as their performances are noticeably more engaged in the four aforementioned standout tracks compared to the remainder.
Mirror haven’t been around for very long, so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here. We clearly have a talented band entering the proto-metal field, but they need to strengthen their songwriting more reliably than they did on Pyramid of Terror if they intend to stand out in a heavy metal world featuring bands like Satan or Black Sites. Their sound is cool, and they certainly know how to play. Finding a way to consistently deliver that x-factor which is clearly present on “Black Magic Tower”?2 That kind of thing takes time, and this band has plenty of it left in what I hope will be a long and illustrious career.