Mirror – The Day The Bastard Leaders Die Review

Mirror plays a NWoBHM-inspired brand of retro metal. They also reflect a variety of influences from 70s prog to early 80s metal. Their third album, The Day Bastard Leaders Die, offers up a 44-minute tour back to the time when class was stained, and killers were running free. The band is a passion project for Greek bassist, Tasos Danazoglou – most famously known for his short stint in Electric Wizard. Here he’s under the influence again paying tribute to the music he clearly loves. In TheKenWord‘s review of Mirror’s previous offering, Pyramid of Terror, he noted a “distinct lack of energy.” Fortunately, things have changed. The Day Bastard Leaders Die has a much less cool name but it comes out swinging hard. Did Mirror finally get the flux capacitor properly synched to their Marshall stack or is this another unwelcome rehash of riffs better left in the past?

While The Day Bastard Leaders Die has more passion than its predecessor, the songwriting doesn’t always match the band’s enthusiasm. The album starts strong with three or four solid tracks but by the time “Fire and Hell” comes around, it starts to feel stock. The pentatonic-inspired riffs and chromatic choruses blend rather than stand out. Guitarist Nikolas “Sprits” Moutafis tries hard to keep things fresh with energetic flourishes and tasty solos. He does a great job of channeling his influences with impassioned delivery but butts up against lesser songs that no amount of fancy fretwork can save. He shines best on “Sleepy Eyes of Death,” which features some of the guitarist’s most tasty playing and phrasing. And speaking of phrasing, what the hell is up with the song titles on this record? No matter how good a song is, when you sing “All streets are evil” I want to scratch my head rather than bang it.

Mirror take direct swipes from their influences on The Day Bastard Leaders Die and Iron Maiden seems to be most often referenced. “Stand Fight Victory” has a similar intro to “Women in Uniform,” “Fire and Hell” borrows generously from “Moonchild” and “Demon Candles” essentially takes the chorus from “Aces High” and sticks it in a Lucifer’s Friend inspired prog song. While I’m all for generous homages to your heroes and musical references, these sometimes felt distracting. “Savage Tales” does a better job of channeling the band’s inspiration into something more original. The song takes the frenzied guitar harmonies and chug of early Judas Priest and scrambles them into something that feels fresh. The seven-minute title track may be the closest we’ll come to answering the question “What if Rainbow and Yes had joined forces?” Interesting but perhaps, ultimately unnecessary.

The musicianship on this record is impressive but the production is not. Danazoglou’s Steve Harris-inspired bass playing is high in the mix. His galloping rhythms kick things off nicely on “Infernal Deceiver,” but when the whole band comes in, the dynamics fizzle. I understand the desire to create a retro sound but mixers in the 70s knew how to make things pop. Here, everything seems squished into the mid-range. The guitar sounds muted instead of in your face and the drums are often buried beneath the bass and vocals. Jimmy Mavrommatis’s vocals are an odd mix of Stryper’s Michael Sweet and King Diamond. Sometimes he hits the high notes as in “Demon Candles” but in other songs like “Infernal Deceiver,” you can hear him struggle and his voice crack. While TheKenWord states he “could listen to his voice all day long into eternity,” I found Mavrommatis’s operatic and overly melodramatic delivery tiring after a few songs.

On paper, I should love this record. Maiden and Priest influences? Check. 70s prog vibes. Check. But somehow it just doesn’t gel. Homage acts can deliver a comforting sound we’re used to in a new package but when those acts hover too close to the source material, it can feel tired and recycled vs inspired and reinvented. Throw in flat-sounding production and the whole thing becomes inaccessible no matter how loud you turn it up. I really wanted to like this album, but it never grabbed me in the way I wished it would. After putting out two albums of squandered potential it may be time for the band to take a good, hard look in the…mirror.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Cruz Del Sur Music
Websites: stareatthemirrorandweep.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/mirrorheavymetal
Releases Worldwide: April 22nd, 2022

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