Mystras
Empires Vanquished And Dismantled


4.0
excellent

Review

by Voivod STAFF
August 17th, 2022 | 11 replies


Release Date: 11/05/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Like castles, empires fall from within.

In his observation about the dearth of romance in soccer, the most important of unimportant things in life (for Europeans at least), The Atlantic staff writer Tom McTague begins by quoting philosopher Roger Scruton’s maxim about the amplifying effect of loss on human conservatism. McTague extrapolates Scruton to every athletic dynasty, bound to cede the scepter of dominance to the next, sooner than later; even the entrenched elite which frequently returns at the forefront is no exception, unlike empires, McTague digresses, which feel eternal to the average human life span. The prolonged length of autocracies over time, has stemmed from the mutually competitive dipole of clergy and aristocracy, and its (seemingly) compounded/prudent/risk-averse reign, as Charles C. Hazewell posited at The Atlantic (December 1866 issue), regarding the fall of the Austrian empire.

Seemingly, as besides being its worst own enemy due to avarice, nepotism and corruption, the said cohort has been especially indifferent to the livelihood and/or the social whereabouts of its subjects, progressively leading to erosion of morale, a steady supply of insurrections and eventually, loss of territorial unity. As a result, Empires [are] Vanquished and Dismantled (sic) and give way to new states and empires, with the culprits being the noble statesmanship that was supposed to keep trouble at bay. Regarding imperial rebirth, it’s interesting to note that Isaac Asimov researched such a process in his sci-fi epic The Foundation, in which a technocratic/intellectual elite has been commissioned to preserve the positive legacy of an empire on a death spiral, but also to construct a new and improved version of it in due time, even if such a transition becomes a violent one.

The sophomore album of Mystras, Ayloss’ instrument for narrowing in on the history of the Middle Ages from the perspective of the common folk, is bound to touch upon the aforementioned. Part of it, is relevant to the crusades: nominally, a visceral yearning of European Christianity for revisiting and rediscovering the holy lands of Jerusalem (“The Fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem”), right at the crosshairs of Scruton’s saying; under the hood though, a concerted effort of the medieval ruling complex to consolidate and expand its political, religious and economic monopoly, as Ayloss shouts in “On the Promises of Angels”:

In Europe piousness and domination competed (as higher values)
So the Pope thought: "what if they are combined?"

Ordinary folk participated out of pure idealism, sheer opportunism or merely at the behest of its feudal lordship, hence it lifted the weight of the entire operation; however, the lyrical content of “To the Builders!”, situates the unfathomable physical toil of the commons, within a much broader historical framework. As for the album title, the last three tracks are a virtual reenaction of the events that triggered the demise of the Western Roman Empire (“Wie Schändlich Es Ist”), and the subsequent birth of new states in the west (“In the Company of the Heretics”) and Byzantium in the east (“The Favor of the Saints”). As those songs succeed one another, the lack of empathy and prescience within imperial elites is exposed, along with an inherent sluggishness towards change, which prevented them from foreseeing and circumventing their doom.

A cursory listen will reveal that Empires Vanquished and Dismantled merely guards the ground claimed by Castles Conquered and Reclaimed; Ayloss however, has managed to shuffle the great hand he’s been building for a while now, and ultimately raises the ante. His performance in all metal instruments is more maniacal, involved and technical than in before, with black metal bordering into death metal at times, and with the last two songs making a case in point that does not wane, no matter the size of the listening stack. In contrast, the rest of the album is characterized by an epic intra/inter-song tempo variability, which along with a couple of immediately perceivable adjustments, completes the picture. First, the avowed lofi character of the debut, has given way to a sound work that enhances audibility, while maintaining ties to what has come to pass. Second, the inter/intra-spersion of folk elements within metal, inherited from Castles Conquered and Reclaimed, sounds even more homogeneous.

While the folk parts are tilted towards the Middle Eastern tradition, the elaborate craftsmanship by the array of guest musicians, amplifies the epic demeanor of the album. Special mention is due to “Cheragheh Zolmezalem (Oppression's Fire)”, where the deep amanes (= middle-eastern lamentation) of guest vocalist Nina Saeidi (Lowen, their 2018 long player is highly recommended), is a paradigm of gradual tension buildup before the brutal kick in the face that is “To The Builders”. Now, some could legitimately argue that the juxtaposition of the aforementioned, is compromising the album’s flow, as opposed to the take-no-prisoners approach of its predecessor. On the other hand, metal folks with a steep listening curve towards lofi black metal, will find here an excellent point of entry to Mystras and their core genre.

As if Spectral Lore and his (increasing list of) other projects aren’t enough to go by, Empires Vanquished and Dismantled is further proof that Ayloss is one of the most accomplished musicians within black metal and beyond. The album’s concept is as relevant as ever, even though its modern ramifications extend beyond Mystras’ storytelling so far, and it remains to be seen whether and how they will be integrated in subsequent releases. Part of the modern world longs for the days of old, namely the Middle Ages, an era with an allegedly simple solution for every problem, not too far from how empires and dictatorships used to operate. Another part unconditionally lauds the omnipresent technocratic elites for their global way of problem solving, thus exacerbating their existing imperialism/feudalism issues, according to The Spectator journalist Joel Kotkin. The end result, apart from the birth of empires that transcend physical borders, is the notion that democracy is no longer necessary. In his criticism about the televised adaptation of The Foundation book series, The Atlantic contributing writer Zachary D. Carter mentions that Asimov’s book is extremely popular among the said circles; in the light of the above, there’s little reason to disagree with him.

Unsurprisingly, Carter detects an imperialism predicament due to the first season’s exclusive reliance on the violence implied in the books. Therefore, he legitimately questions the necessity of portraying on screen the preservation of a brutal autocracy; in the humble opinion of the author of this review, Carter’s query could generalize as “why care about the livelihood of any autocracy at all?”, since he concludes that empires are doomed to fail, one way or another. Isn’t democracy and the constant review and update of policies that it champions, enough? The question is rhetorical, especially in view of Jürgen Klopp’s quip about the succession of soccer managers and players in franchises, scaled and translated accordingly, that “eventually, players are tired of listening to the same things from the same manager, and eventually a manager is tired of saying the same things to the same players”.




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user ratings (25)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Voivod
Staff Reviewer
August 17th 2022


9836 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Constructive criticism is most welcome.



Literature:

http://tinyurl.com/mvj7jjey

http://tinyurl.com/2p8ty574

http://tinyurl.com/dbpd2nu9

http://tinyurl.com/47turr45

http://tinyurl.com/mv6wyw4f

http://tinyurl.com/3heh28et

DadKungFu
August 17th 2022


2233 Comments


Think "moral" in the second paragraph was supposed to be "morale". Very interesting read, going to go over it a few more times

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2022


9836 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fixed and thanks

Pikazilla
August 18th 2022


24575 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This was cool on first listen but ig I need more time with it



Sometimes the folk elements feel somewhat out of place

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2022


9836 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^^Yeah, I know what you mean, and I mention that in the text.

Ayloss has a new project coming up, dubbed Auriferous Flame, which he partially describes as Mystras sans the folk influence. The debut album is due at the end of the month.

Perhaps you will find it more appealing.

Pikazilla
August 18th 2022


24575 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This band reminds me a lot of Melechesh



Last two tracks on the album are probably the best imo

zaruyache
August 18th 2022


25642 Comments


band's good

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2022


17884 Comments


Voivod bringing the goods.

Egarran
August 18th 2022


29781 Comments


Good lord what a review

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2022


9836 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^^Yeah, I know :-D

I don't know, semantically both Mystras albums appeared to me like the tip of an iceberg, hence the monstrous length of both reviews.

I (hope I) did my best so that both read as smoothly as possible.

Egarran
August 18th 2022


29781 Comments


The soccer analogies helped a lot



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