Sometimes judging a record by its album art is the best idea in the universe.
So let’s get this out of the way: this record features the most amazing album cover we have seen in a long time. Women being devoured by ghouls? Meh. Dragons? Boring. But a fire-breathing unicorn with a gigantic, erect penis, surrounded by armoured and undead warrior-corns, skeletal soldiers, and snake eyeballs? We are officially sold. You should all buy this record. Case closed.
What? What do you mean we have to review what it sounds like? There is a fire-breathing wang-i-corn on the cover. That is the only relevant information that needs to be imparted here.
Okay, fine. We’ll talk about the damn record. If you insist.
“Do you remember the first time your thoughts were turned to evil things?” With this quote from the 1971 British horror flick The Devils, Mephistopheles begins. It’s the fourth full-length in two years from ambient black metal and psychedelic rock solo artist Matron, who plays nearly all the instruments on the record (banjo, berimbau, and backing vocals being the exceptions).
There are some problems beneath the record’s proud, blazing exterior. Mephistopheles is incredibly uneven, featuring entire tracks of soft keyboard interludes, folk instrumentals, or, in one memorable case, a combination of burbling vocals, trumpet, acoustic guitar, and a tolling bell. Many of these tracks are essentially aural experiments, and while they produce occasionally interesting results, most run too long.
But the thing is, when Mephistopheles just settles down and acts like a black metal record, it produces some good results. The opening track, “A Looming Dark Presence,” is a freaky, fractal landscape, while “Falsehood Plasterer” is a towering wall of well-structured aggression. If only Mephistopheles were half the length, it would be a lot stronger.
But who cares what it sounds like? Come for the wang-i-corn, stay—maybe—for the black metal.