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Mythra - Still Burning

Still Burning
by Daniel Stefanov at 24 July 2017, 10:20 AM

MYTHRA's 1979 EP "Death and Destiny" is to this day one of the cornerstones of NWOBHM. When the 70's were gathering momentum for what would become the utter metal craziness of the 80's, MYTHRA were among the most genuine sounding acts of the genre, and, as they claim, one of the original NWOBHM bands (or "NWOBHMNED", if we go by the definition on their tiny bit self-indulgent website, which stands for "New Wave of British Heavy Metal - North East Division", because somehow "NWOBHM" was not an absurd enough acronym already). Fast forward to forty years later, MYTHRA are still alive and kicking, and mostly in their original lineup too! "Still Burning", their third album, featuring the powerful imagery of their signature giant phoenix, tearing its chains and breaking through solid rock, comes to remind us that they are, well, "Still Burning". A lot has happened on the NWOBHM scene for the past four decades, though, so is the phoenix's flame up to par with what fans of old-school heavy metal have come to expect?

The album opens straight to the point with "Still Burning", which wastes no time on intros and narrations (thankfully). The song serves to define the album perfectly - a simplistic mid-tempo track with traditional rhythm and riffs, even more simplistic lyrics ("The flame still burning, the flame still burning, let it burn, let it burn, deep inside, let it burn") and apathetic vocal delivery. Vince High's voice is far from its glory days, and worse than that - despite being pleasant in the low range, sounds uninterested, as if he has given up. It is quite ironic to sing "feel the flame, passion rise", when you sound like "just let me sleep for five more minutes, please". The overall mediocrity of this supposed anthem of the band's ongoing mission to carry the NWOBHMNED flag, doesn't help either. "Still Burning" sounds like a memory of a fraction of a spark that could have had something burning a while ago, but is little more than fading ember at this point.

Luckily things start to look up with the next song, "A Call to All", which also is my favourite track on the record. Overall more energetic, a bit more lively delivery, and a lot more originality and melody in the chorus, results in "A Call to All" being a memorable and pleasant tune, despite its overly simplistic lyrics. Also, at mere 02:45, the song is too short of a ray, to light up the whole album, especially since "That Special Feeling" promptly drowns it all in shades of utter boredom again. There is nothing special about the feeling, and Vince knows it, as he is once again singing against his better judgement. And at this point everyone should start wondering what is with these guys and repetitive lyrics? "Music got me, once again, music got me, once again, that special feeling, back again, that special feeling, back again, back again", 60% of every song so far has been repeating the same two lines over and over again. "Ride the Storm" keeps the uber-motivational "you can do the thing" motif, again delivered at a stuttering pace, however with a minor dash of inspiration in the lyrics - "Stand, fight, all you fear / Truth, life, triumph here!" sounds like a loudspeaker announcement in a supermarket ("Triumph here, only 1.29! Stand, buy, all our produce is top quality, guaranteed!"), however I can't deny that "Raise your flag, light your flame / Battle hard, stake your claim" rings some of the right bells.

"Survival", "Battle Cry" and "Silence in the Sirens" form a trifecta of good songs in the heart of the album. "Survival" could fool me for being a "Blood of the Nations"-era ACCEPT song, which is very good in the current context, although I'm pretty sure I've heard those licks before. It is an aggressive and rhythmic song with a great solo. "Battle Cry" has a lot of the genuine old-school vibe that young NWOTHM bands are trying to replicate these days, except this is the real deal. "Silence in the Sirens" again rings out somewhat like an ACCEPT song but overall nothing original about it, just pleasant to listen to. The final four of the album unfortunately take us back to the mediocrity of the first four. "Sands of Time" starts like a ballad, but is not, which is a shame, since it could have been much more decent that way. The lead guitar is great on this track and I could listen to it for hours, but the singing style of mechanically vocalizing one syllable per drum hit is really unsettling and what could have been the six-minute-long epic on the album is a song that I'm glad is over. "Victory Song" doesn't have a speck of victory feeling in it and it sounds almost identical to "Still Burning", there are at least 3 places where you can switch between the two songs on the fly and I would never know.

"We Belong" is an emotional track and could have been really impressive with its mellow verses and heavy bridge and chorus, had it not been the apathetic mechanical vocal delivery. These days a computer can be programmed to show more emotion in its artificial speech, and I bet it could write better lyrics too: "Take my hand, walk with me / Across the world, tell me what you see / Peace and love, liberty / Hope for all … humanity / I don't understand". I don't understand either, buddy, I truly don't. "Fundamental Extreme" is a re-record (I guess) of a decent, energetic song from their self-released 2002 album "The Darkener", unfortunately loaded with too much of the aforementioned apathy and too little originality for me to thoroughly enjoy.

I really wanted to like this album. I know it may not look like it, but I gave it many, many chances to impress me, ever thinking I must have missed something, and ever ending up more depressed about it in the end. "Still Burning" shows that MYTHRA is not really burning anymore. The only song that showed any desire at all to even try and be original was "A Call to All". And while upholding to a formula is okay, and it has worked wonders for ACCEPT, SAXON, MOTORHEAD and on three different occasions for MANOWAR, it is one thing to hold your ground and play your music the way you feel it, and a whole other thing to have the exact same song ten times with minor variations in rhythm, identical tempo, different guitar chords thrown here and there, and different words sung the exact same way, and call it "Still Burning". The vocals are of very tight range and the style of singing is frankly atrocious. Or imagine me saying "The-style-of-sin-giiiiing / is-fran-kly-atro-ciooooous" with the most disinterested voice imaginable, and for five minutes straight. And to top things off, the lyrics are amateurish. For example:

Here is a verse from "That Special Feeling": I want to tell you, the way I feel, Here in the moment, my heart reveal, Lost in my music, coming round again, How can I thank you, where do I begin, Music got me … once again, Music got me … once again, That special feeling … back again, That special feeling … back again, back again. This is a verse from "Death and Destiny": Poetic justice to laugh at sight as blind lead blind towards the light, a hollow sense of hollow greed to bite the hand that tries to feed, reality is never there for those who try so hard to compare themselves with someone in their mind - tremendous foresight but oh so blind.

What the hell happened? If that tendency keeps up, MYTHRA's next album will have the lyrical potency of a work of LIL WAYNE. And more importantly, why did Vince forget how to pronounce words in a song without breaking them into syllables with half a second pause in between? The music itself is more than decent, keeping up with the good old traditions of the NWOBHMNEDULALOCONSNAWOWOWBHMBHIBAMOP genre ("New Wave of British Heavy Metal North East Division, Unnecessarily Long Abbreviation League Of Champions Of Not So New Anymore Wave Of What Once Was British Heavy Metal But Has Instead Become A Memory Of The Past", aka "Metal"). The guitar work is provoking and energetic, the rhythm section is great across the album, but what is built on top of that is paradoxical in nature. My disappointment with this release is world-shattering and depressing. Or if I could rephrase "A Call to All": "This is a call to MYTHRA / you know we got a problem… / Come to your senses!"

Songwriting: 6
Originality: 3
Memorability: 5
Production: 9

2 Star Rating

1. Still Burning
2. A Call to All
3. That Special Feeling
4. Ride the Storm
5. Survival
6. Battle Cry
7. Silence in the Sirens
8. Sands of Time
9. Victory Song
10. We Belong
11. Fundamental Extreme
Maurice Bates - Bass
Phil Davies - Drums
John Roach - Guitars
Alex Perry - Guitars
Vince High - Vocals
Record Label: High Roller Records


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