Review: Mirror – Pyramid of Terror
The wild, hard rocking heavy metal of the ‘70s and early ‘80s has been enjoying a resurgence of sorts in recent years as more and more bands yearn for musical days long gone. Most of that revival focuses on the more mystical side of that coin, with occult rock, love letters to Blue Öyster Cult, and the ethereal leads of Pagan Altar enjoying some success. There’s a lot less (good) homage to the higher-octane groups like Scorpions, Rainbow, and Deep Purple.
Fortunately for those who miss those days, or who really wish that Rainbow did more like “Gates of Babylon,” Cyprus-based metal warriors Mirror exploded onto the scene a few years ago with their triumphant self-titled debut album. Now, after a 4-year delay, Mirror has returned again with what I would say is an even better album, Pyramid of Terror. As I’ve already alluded to, the name of the game is the mighty ‘70s, and particularly Rainbow and Scorpions. Every section of metallic aggression is offset by glorious hard rock grooves, and the powerful, emotional voice of singer Jimmy Mavrommatis demands attention in a way that feels much more authentic to the band’s influences than most modern throwbacks can manage. Mavrommatis has a tendency towards the theatrical that distinguishes him from the scant handful of similar vocalists operating in metal these days, and his creative vocal lines can provide some great moments of surprise or tension as songs develop.
The lead guitar on the album is also incredible, and each song is jammed full of harmonies, solos, and melodies. Rather than have the leads be treated as an afterthought in the album’s songwriting, they’re a key ingredient to Pyramid of Terror’s success, fleshing out weaker sections, accentuating changes, or even just providing little flourishes on repeating riffs that captivate. Though the music on the album is very much focused on the guitar playing and the vocal performance, the bass is extraordinarily audible, with a rich, clunky tone and aggressive playing style that helps drive the music through less successful sections and to empower it at the album’s peaks. It’s unsurprising that the bass would be this audible in a band where the bassist writes all of the music, but it’s certainly welcome, and I always love good bass in heavy metal.
Despite the strong comparisons I’ve made to Rainbow, that side of the genre is certainly not the only thing on display, and there’s a good amount of variety on the Pyramid of Terror. “Master of the Deep” in particular shows a clear tribute to early Black Sabbath, much as the band itself is a tribute to all things ‘70s heavy metal, but ultimately, in spite of all of this worship, Mirror is not nearly as nostalgic as you might think from reading the rest of this review. Rather than being a hackneyed tribute to an era the band never lived through, Mirror sound like a continuation—they aren’t taking a trip to the past, they never left.
Pyramid of Terror is one of the year’s best albums. It’s not perfect, and a couple sections drag a bit, or rely on a riff that’s a tad weaker than the ones surrounding it, or on a vocal line that doesn’t work as well as its companions. I wouldn’t even have noticed anything falling short if not for the amount of times I’ve heard the album at this point, and the handful of pitfalls won’t keep me from hitting it over and over again, for years to come.
All images courtesy of Mirror.