MYSTFALL – CELESTIAL VISION
LABEL: Scarlet Records
RELEASE: July 21st, 2023
AUTHOR: Samantha Shears
01. Resisting Heaven
02. Celestial Vision
06. Kings Of Utopia
07. Moral Compass
08. The Balance Of Time
09. Freedom Path
I had a good feeling about MYSTFALL’s debut album “Celestial Vision” from the moment I read the announcement. First of all, it was to be released through Scarlet Records, a reputable Italian label with bands such as Moonlight Haze, Frozen Crown and Nocturna under its roster. Secondly and more importantly, it was to be fronted by Greek lyric soprano Marialena Trikoglou, whose debut solo album “Vanity” came out back in 2020. Like many releases in the symphonic metal world under a solo singer’s name, it flew under the radar, but showed much promise for genre fans like me who heard it. Now with a full band and label support, MYSTFALL has a chance to reach more ears. At least some members of the band have previously collaborated with Marialena: guitarist Panagiotis Leontaritis and drummer Manos Agouridis are credited on the video for “Vanity”, while harsh vocalist Kostas Mexis joined Marialena on a cover of Epica’s “Abyss Of Time”. Bassist Antonis Desousis and keyboardist Dida Racotoarison complete the MYSTFALL lineup.
The core sound of “Celestial Vision” is clear right from the start. Orchestrations and choirs have a massive presence on this record, beginning immediately with instrumental intro “Resisting Heaven”. This leads into the album’s title track and lead single, a song with huge, sweeping symphonic melodies. Marialena shows off her impressive vocal range, plus growled verses from Kostas add another element into the mix. “Centuries” follows in a similarly epic vein and is a major album highlight for me. All of the key elements are here: infectious choral chants, dual vocals from Marialena and Kostas and a wonderful power metal guitar solo.Equal to the importance of the orchestrations here are the operatic vocals of Marialena. Her experience in classical singing easily shines through. Her vocal performance is strong throughout the entire record, most notably on semi-ballad “Silence”, a track that opens with delicate pianos and vocals before the full orchestra, choirs and the rest of the band join in. The album’s lyrics are philosophical in nature, likely taking some inspiration from Epica. The reference to “Code Of Life” in title track “Celestial Vision” is perhaps a nod to the band.
If there is one potential pitfall for some listeners, it is that the metal side of the band fades into the background at times, adding a layer of heaviness that supports the vocals and orchestrations, but not as often taking the lead. Not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but something that simply boils down to the personal taste of the listener. Still, there are plenty of heavy moments to enjoy here, such as the riff-driven verses of “Endless” and “Kings Of Utopia”.
“Celestial Vision” is undoubtedly a bombastic album from start to finish. A couple more highlights come towards the end of this record, namely “The Balance Of Time” for its epic structure, chanted chorus and brutal growls, and “Freedom Path” for its fun, fast-paced melodies. Both of these tracks contain great guitar solos too. I would recommend this album for anyone who is into operatic vocals and a symphonic-focused approach to the subgenre. Fans of genre giants Nightwish, Xandria (“Neverworld’s End” and beyond) and Epica will likely find something to like here. This album also brought to mind recent debuts from Empress and fellow Greeks Fortis Ventus. It’s worth noting here too that if you like Marialena’s voice, her solo album is worth checking out, as well as her YouTube channel which has a variety of covers.
MYSTFALL is a worthy addition to the symphonic metal scene, one that I hope will have plenty more music to share with us in the future.