[Album cover artwork by Filip Leu]
One thing the Last Rites collective seems particularly adept at in 2019 is allowing good things to fall through the cracks. Okay, that rings pretty true every year, but in our defense, enough good-to-great material ends up rumbling down the ol’ conveyor that it’s nearly impossible for a small(ish) crew to make sure every single gem gets a proper bit of the spotlight. And really, it’s not such a bad thing, being marked as “having fallen through the cracks,” because in order to qualify as such, an album should, by definition, be good, and it must also eventually become caught and have some sort of sincere apology attached to its opening paragraph. Accordingly, please accept our apology for missing the sophomore release from Mirror, Pyramid of Terror, which has now been roaming the streets like a surreptitious panther for about five weeks.
Let’s just jump right into one of the true highlights of the album, “Master of the Deep.” The song kicks off with the sort of quiet but adventurous lilt one might expect from an 80s’ Iron Maiden tune, including a wonderfully moody Harris / Smith interplay, when shortly after the one minute mark they suddenly redirect the initiative toward something notably dark & doomy, like a lost Heaven and Hell or Mob Rules b-side. Then, BOOM: four minutes in, everything burns off with hellfire and the song finishes the last minute-and-a-half with the epic scorch of an old Mercyful Fate tune.
That raw, fiery guitar synergy that’s tempered in the molten lead of a hellish cauldron has a distinct Denner / Shermann vibe (Mirror actually credits three players this go-round: George Solonos for “half the guitar solos,” and the remainder presumably split between Nikolas Moutafis and Constantinos “Dino” Blynd), and it plays a vital role throughout Pyramid of Terror. More often than not, it feels torn from Fate’s classic 80s’ canon. In other songs—“Nitocris,” for example—it has a more modern, somewhat progressive vibe similar to In the Shadows.
By now you’ve probably noticed another of Mirror’s key advantages: the vocals of Jimmy Mavrommatis. This guy is frigging amazing—a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster that sews together equal bits of Tony Moore (Riot), a pinch of fellow Hellenic howler Nicholas Leptos, and a healthy carving of some sort of Bizarro World version of Michael Sweet (bite me, dude can wail) that throws grimoires out into the crowd in lieu of bibles. His fantastic voice underscores the epic tone of the record, giving a notable theatrical touch to some of the more hard-driving traditional metal songs that smack of something that would’ve fit snuggly within Bruce Dickinson’s solo career—“Apollo Rising” and the excellent “Black Magic Tower,” for example. Other times, during Pyramid of Terror‘s more hard rocking numbers, he just roars like a helmet-haired 70s ripper. A song like “Running from the Law” injects a substantial amount of insanely infectious swagger to the journey, and it’s also the sort of tune that makes you hope, Hope, HOPE for a cover of something like “Ride the Sky” in the not-too-distant future.
No avoiding the fact that I’ve spent the bulk of this review connecting the dots between Mirror and their influences, which I think is pretty common when a band decides to conjure Yon Olden Days. It’s important to note, though, these guys are very proficient songwriters on their own, so they sound a little less like their ancestors and more like they’ve simply spent many years absorbed in the works of Fate, Maiden and Lucifer’s Friend before finally deciding to give it a go together. So, while the bass play of Tas Danazoglou (Satan’s Wrath, ex-Electric Wizard) is clearly shaped by dude like Steve Harris, Mirror doesn’t really sound like Iron Maiden. In truth, their sound is fairly unique because of the manner in which they piece all these influences together. I guess Mirror simply sounds like…Mirror at this point, which is a truly great thing that any discerning fan of classic heavy metal shouldn’t allow to fall through the cracks.