27th October 2014 – Peaceville Records
04. The Ether
05. Fist of Satan
06. All Must End
07. Cosmic Gun
08. Dissolve into Impiety
Mysticum are a Norwegian black metal band who were around during the infamous second wave of black metal. You know, that scene where lots of people killed other people and burned down sacred places of worship in juvenile displays of rebellion to “get back at Christianity.”
Mysticum were never one of the bigger acts, however, and only released one full length album in 1996 – the cult favourite In the Streams of Inferno - along with a few demos and splits before calling it quits for a few years. They reformed, released another split and a compilation – and then went dark again. Finally in 2014, ten years after their last release and after years of rumours, they are releasing their second full length, titled Planet Satan.
Planet Satan is a fairly silly name for an album, so right away it might be somewhat difficult to take it seriously – however it’s dark, cold, punishing, and cutting. The guitars are relentless and frozen, providing a non-stop roar of whirlwind-like distortion. The drums, which are programmed, switch between manic blasting and the stomp of a robotic assembly line. Opener “LSD”, which stands for “Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds”, is the perfect demonstration of all of this; the guitars, the drums, the psychedelic swirls and also a reminder that this is probably tongue-in-cheek.
A big plus for Planet Satan is the vocal delivery. Mysticum make use of two vocalists: Prime Evil and Cerastes, one of whom has a throaty growl and is used most often, and the other provides one that is grittier and lower. There are times when both are going at the same time, and these moments have a special sort of gravity to them; the vocals have intensity to them and a cold, inhuman element that matches the rest of the album.
The songs are solid, if not anything more than that. The black metal bears all the hallmarks of the Norwegian sound; tremolo-picking, harsh raspy vocals and blast beats alternating with a more ‘four-on-the-floor’ pattern, but dressed up with a more psychedelic feel and a mechanical approach – but in the end it is still standard Norwegian black metal, a style that the world has left behind quite some time past. “The Ether” might be the most interesting song on the album as it feels like a song from Anaal Nathrakh if Anaal Nathrakh toned the intensity back a thousandfold.
The production is thin, metallic, and inhuman, which was almost certainly the goal. It’s icy, but not in the same “grim and frostbitten” way most black metal acts try to get; rather, it feels completely alien and entirely without empathy for anything human. In fact, it is quite the perfect interpretation of the album’s name, with Satan as a robot alien. Some of the instruments clash a bit in the mix however, and there are many times where the drums feel like they overpower the guitar, and the vocals are a bit lower in the mix than is satisfactory.
Planet Satan is a tight, metallic, razor-sharp black metal album. The vague industrial leanings, paired with the cold, dark, inhuman edge and the cool, psychedelic elements hidden throughout makes for a unique feel amongst its peers. The programming is well done and the guitar tone is spacey and biting. Musically, it is passable and, though the new dressings help it from feeling dated, it still suffers from being same-old Norwegian black metal.