Somewhere, in a wood-paneled basement, with a couch upholstered in multi-toned brown plaid, there’s a dusty record player resting in a corner on top of crumpled copies of the local newspaper. If you were to travel to this mythical basement, and click the turntable on, you might hear something like Mausoleum Gate’s Into Dark Divinity meekly issuing from the needle. You might feel inclined to take off your shoes and let the shag carpeting caress your mangled toes. You might even feel inclined to break out your now ancient stash of Mary Jane. Hey, do you. No one here is judging. You gotta get into the right head space here.
Let’s begin with the positives. The opener, “Condemned to Darkness” features some of the most effective vocal patterns on the album and some of the tightest guitar playing. It’s catchy, so catchy that you’ll actually need to hear it in order to get it out of your head. The guitar solos, throughout the entirety, are impeccable. Further, the guitar tone is finely tuned to an 11 on the psych scale. As the track opens and the dual guitars gently pick out a harmonized lead line, the listener can almost feel the cloth wallpaper that was probably on the wall in their studio. The adventure is about to begin, the traveler has been chosen. There is hope and anticipation throughout the track.
Label: Cruz Del Sur Music.
So let’s deal with a low point. Following the nine-minute-plus burner that is “Condemned to Darkness” is the LP’s weakest point with “Burn the Witches at Dawn.” The track is cheesy, and not in the brilliant normal metal ways. It’s a sort of Velveeta version of cheese, utilizing riffs that feel recycled and drumming that sounds straight out of middle school band, the track is wholly unsuccessful. It’s a shame because Mausoleum Gate is far more talented than this track would let on. Riding a rock and roll sub-three-minutes length, there’s even an excellent guitar solo thrown in. But it’s not enough to overcome the disconnect between the vocals, the guitars, the drumming and the all too formulaic composition. Oddly, this track has a near carbon copy later on the album with “Horns.”
Another high point is “Solomon’s Key.” Following a meandering, nearly eleven minute track, “Solomon’s Key” is precise, orderly and quite hummable. In fact, it’s this kind of music that Mausoleum Gate are terrific at. The slower pacing, the drama dripping from each lyric and the captivating chorus make for an engaging journey. Further, the composition allows multiple verses to pass by before dropping the chorus (another one that will get stuck in your head). It’s a patience/reward scenario that truly makes this jam a winner. And, yet another track with a tremendously precise, melodic guitar solo that sounds intricately connected to the piece.
On their prior LP, a self-titled work released in 2014, Mausoleum Gate seemed like a band capable of writing both fantastical and crunching psychedelic rock reminiscent of Detroit’s motor city-driven sound. That album had its weak points, in particular “Mercenaries of Steel” but overall it set the tone and expectations for Mausoleum Gate to really put together a solid effort on their sophomore LP. What’s most frustrating is that, if you were able to combine these two albums, you would have one really, really solid psych-rock album.
There are highs and lows across Into Dark Divinity. The highs reveal a band capable of swaddling themselves in all the saccharin, solo-laced grooves of the 70s while the lows reveal a band incapable of consistently engaging composition. With track length varying wildly, it’s likely that the band is merely experimenting with a few different styles. Unfortunately, most of them are tragically ineffective. Points for style and bravery are in order, but ultimately this is a lackluster effort from a band that is capable of so much more.