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Mystras – Castles Conquered And Reclaimed

Castles Conquered And Reclaimed
by Cherie Wong at 23 July 2020, 2:05 PM

On July 17, 2020, Ayloss of SPECTRAL LORE released “Castles Conquered And Reclaimed” with his new project MYSTRAS. Ayloss is a Greek multi-instrumentalist. With SPECTRAL LORE, he has released four full-length albums and numerous splits and EPs. In fact, SPECTRAL LORE and MARE COGNITUM released the split “Wanderers: Astrology Of The Nine” just this March. While that monstrous release was amazing, “Castles Conquered And Reclaimed” deserves praise and attention in its own right.

MYSTRAS calls itself “Medieval Black Metal against Empire and Aristocracy.” With this release, MYSTRAS is rawer but just as atmospheric as SPECTRAL LORE. The atmosphere of “Castles Conquered And Reclaimed” echoes the theme of the album, noticeable in the melodies, unique instruments, and covers of Medieval folk music and the Ars Nova repertoire (which was previously unknown to me, so I am grateful for the introduction). After delving into some of the lyrics, I am stricken by how topical the album’s subject of revolt and rebellion is. History repeats itself, no doubt.

Castles Conquered And Reclaimed” starts off the album as a short track relative to a few of the other tracks. It’s readily apparent that the production is a bit raw, but the guitar melodies and vocals can still be heard and picked out from the background wall of noise that is the drums. Next, “The Cutty Wren” is the first of several folk tracks. The melody and instrumentation are simple, but pretty. Though it could have been jarring for a black metal track to lead right into an acoustic track, the end of “Castles Conquered And Reclaimed” fades into “The Cutty Wren.” Similarly, the third track “The Murder Of Wat Tyler” starts off with a quick folk introduction. “The Murder Of Wat Tyler” is one of the so called “black metal epics” on this album, and I have to agree. There are epic guitar melodies throughout, while screaming vocals and voiceovers tell a story. The other “black metal epics,” like “Storm The Walls Of Mystras” and “The Zealots Of Thessaloniki” are similar, though with different melodies and other stories. One last thing of note on this album is that starting with “The Cutty Wren,” every other track is a folk instrumental. Once you get the rhythm, these tracks – “Contre Dolour,” “O Tsakitzis,” and “Ai Vist Lo Lop” – are welcome interludes.

Overall, I highly recommend this album to atmospheric and melodic black metal fans. It’s raw and ferocious, but still a bit melodic. The quieter folk instrumentals are a great addition and offer balance. If you like the idea of SPECTRAL LORE, but with a medieval twist, or of OBSEQUIAE, but with a raw production, then you will like this album. “Castles Conquered And Reclaimed” is a strong debut album and a solid addition to the "Medieval Black Metal" genre. All that aside, I definitely support a band that stands for the common folk and against aristocracy.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 6

4 Star Rating

1. Castles Conquered And Reclaimed
2. The Cutty Wren
3. The Murder Of Wat Tyler
4. Contre Dolour
5. Storm The Walls Of Mystras
6. O Tsakitzis
7. The Zealots Of Thessaloniki
8. Ai Vist Lo Lop
9. Wrath And Glory
Ayloss – Guitars, Drums, Vocals, Synths

Guest Musicians:
Stelios Romaliadis – Flute (Track 4), Tin Whistle (Track 8)
Matthew Dakoutros – Violin (Track 2)
Viktoria Taskou – Yayli Tanbur (Track 6)
Dimitris Corax Augoustinos – Frame Drum, Percussion (Track 8)
Record Label: I, Voidhanger Records


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Edited 05 June 2023

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