review by: Joshua
While beautifully rendered, the cover of Meister Mephisto isnít going to inspire much confidence in all but the most, er simple, of the metal buying public. Itís a mock up of a Jagermeister bottle, replete with 66.6% alcohol volume warning/beckoning and lip smackingly enticing beads of condensation running down either side of the label; the severe gaze of a very Nordic looking warrior peers intently from under a Kaiser helmet as if determining whether your manhood can handle this grand elixir.
This imagery in mind, one delves into this endeavor with the same degree of optimism as oneís hope of not having a Texan in the Whitehouse. Trepidation sets in as the disc slides into the deck with expectations of a brain cell-impaired jokefest only moments away. The hope is for something competently played if lucky, completely forgettable at best.
Oh, me of little faith. Turns out Sturmgeist is a solo project of Cornelius from Solefald and anyone familiar with that duoís skewed take on the whole black metal thing, the unfortunate Neonism aside, knows that weíre in very good hands, indeed. His questionable judgment regarding cover art notwithstanding, he equates himself quite well here.
The eccentricity that is Solefaldís hallmark pervades Meister Mephisto. The album is Viking in spirit, black metal in approach, and a heavily mechanized precision instrument incorporating both of those genres and more in its arsenal. Imagine Summoning excised of all the Tolkien imagery armed with varied tempos and a considerably larger breadth of vision. Or Rammstein jacking up the techno-industrial overtones and unleashing unfettered aggression on the world, carving a trail of destruction that leaves only denuded landscapes in its wake.
Stellar production is the key ingredient here: huge, enveloping and crystal clear. Anything less and it would have been an anemic mess. The guitars are sharp, giving both riffs and simple chords alike the consistency of razor wire and sledgehammer weight. Drum machines, usually a weak link for any band that deigns to use one, here sound like the artillery battery itís often trying to emulate; it was the right decision as the programming is often times intricate beyond human capabilities.
Matter of fact, Sturmgeist has a knack for good decisions. Be it the melding of a plodding and militaristic slog with circusy keyboards, lacing industrial rhythms with muted break beats or seeding a couple of epics among the (relatively) straight forward tracks that have a jugular single mindedness, thereís nary a misstep in the bunch.
Meister Mephisto is one of those infrequent albums that will have you torn after the last song leaves the speakers. Youíll come away with an empty feeling knowing that you can never hear it again for the first time but the sensation fades almost immediately as you reach for the play button and fills that hollow space. (8/10)