Some of you might remember an old Royal Anguish demo that was released over a decade ago called Shocking the Priest. It was re-released in 2002 on a compilation called The Collection - Tools of the Trade Vol. I. Well, those tunes were okay for that time period, but this is a whole new Royal Anguish and the quality level is through the roof. Mysterion might be on the small label, Sounds of the Dead Records, but this is every bit as good as almost anything you've heard in the last year.
The band labels themselves as the innovators of hybrid metal. A mixture of many styles is what comprises this disc and every piece is meticulously recorded to near perfection. Royal Anguish took forever to record this album and it seems that every second was worth it. The band runs the gamut from death vocals to soaring clean vocals, to breathtaking female vocals, to crushing, head-banging riffs, to shredding solos, to acoustic guitar, to violins. I could literally go on and on. Mysterion is brutally heavy, yet atmospheric and beautiful. Sinister and dark, yet emotional and gripping. A truly exquisite work of art!
The album opens with the song "One Last Time". The lyrics talk of a lost loved one. The contrast in this song between the death vocals and female vocals is nothing short of awesome. This actually is a formula that Royal Anguish uses throughout the album. It took me a while to get used to all the female vocals, and at first I thought they were overused. But after numerous listens you can't help but appreciate the beauty of Courtney Chadwick and Katy Decker's vocals. Although Chadwick is no longer in the band, Decker proves in the song "My Own Despair" that absolutely no letdown will be experienced in the future. And geesh, you gotta love that piercing scream that vocalist Matt Knowles lets loose at the end of the song. If you're cranking this album at home you better secure the fine china.
Another couple songs that I really enjoy are "Homeland" and "I Close My Eyes". Like I said above, this stuff is just so emotional. Royal Anguish doesn't sound anything like the death/doom band Morphia, but both bands prove that metal can be vicious and yet full of beauty and emotion. The ending of "Homeland" is probably my favorite parts on the entire disc. The songs just builds and builds and just before it pushes you off the cliff, Chadwicks vocals come in to sing "I search the sky/with wings like eagles/I hope to find/a place to call my home". Then the band rips into it with a crazy solo and then quiets somewhat before giving you the final shove off the emotional cliff with Knowles' screams of "Not of this world...not of this world...this is not my homeland....this is not my homeland....this is not my homeland....!!" while the band is just ripping things to shreds. Heck, I almost started crying when it ended cause it was so darn great and I just couldn't stand the fact that the song was over.
Anyways...what I'm trying to tell you is this...Royal Anguish is one of THE top new bands in metal today. (New in a sense that this is a totally different band that what was around years ago). This is a band that takes their art very seriously. From music, to lyrics, to production, to packaging. This is stuff that I can very highly recommend to all metal fans. (Review by Matt)