Although I have spent the majority of my life in America, I was born in the Middle East and I grew up with a constant dose of Arabic folk music playing at home. During my childhood and teenage years I did everything possible to distance myself from the music and subsequently my culture, but as I matured a bit this trend completely reversed. I now find myself extremely drawn to songs and bands that tastefully utilize Middle Eastern melodies, therefore combining my passion for metal with my culture. It should come as no surprise then when I say Rainbow’s “Gates of Babylon” is my favorite song of all time. At this point, I’ve had a couple of dreams where I write Middle Eastern tinged metal ala Rainbow only to wake up and remember I have no musical talent, relegating myself to armchair criticism instead. Luckily for me, Cyprus based traditional metal band Mirror seem to worship that song just as much as I do, filling the void in my metallic heart.
There’s much more to Mirror though than just tasteful use of Middle Eastern inspired melodies though. They first burst onto the scene with their 2015 self-titled debut album and brought with them a unique take on a classic sound. Mirror’s style is a bit tough to exactly pin down, but there’s a notable amount of influence from late 70s and early 80s metal such as Deep Purple, Scorpions, and the previously mentioned Rainbow. While Mirror’s sound is decidedly old school like these bands, there’s a very modern feeling to it all. In a way, they remind me of Hell (UK)’s comeback album Human Remains, which very much feels like a classic brought forward to the new age. This similarity to Hell is further accentuated by the fact that Mirror vocalist Jimmy Mavrommatis has a huge amount of character and a dash of theatrics in a similar manner to Hell vocalist David Bower. Mirror’s latest album follows in the same style as the eponymous debut and further builds upon the ideas we first heard.
Pyramid of Terror picks up exactly where the self titled debut left off, both in a metaphorical and literal sense – the opening acoustic guitar melody on the new album is a continuation of the final melody on the debut album. The album’s opening self titled opening track then immediately cuts to an upbeat, NWOBHM inspired tune filled with passionate, but catchy vocals and equally addicting guitar riffs. This perfectly sets the tone for the album and shows us what Mirror is all about. The rest of the album showcases a blend of hard rock, early NWOBHM, and even doom metal (the opening of “Master of the Deep” is a direct homage to “A National Acrobat”) with their own personal flair added in for that extra kick of spice.
Much like the debut, the guitars and vocals are the stars of the show here. The guitars, handled by and Nikolas Moutafis (Solitary Sabred) and Dino, are strong and central to the songs with plenty of killer riffs, memorable intertwining leads, and certainly no shortage of hooks. Mavrommatis’ passionate and charismatic vocals compliment the guitars nicely and sit front and center in the mix. Tas Danazoglou’s bass is thunderous and very audible, but largely serves to back up the guitars here. Daniel Georgiou’s drumming is excellent and works to drive the album forward and his organic tone is very nice on the ears, but unfortunately the drums are a little quiet in the mix taking away some of their impact. Overall, the songs are incredibly dense with a lot going on at any point, but care is taken to make sure that the listener is never overwhelmed.
Mirror have put together an incredibly masterful and enjoyable album. There aren’t any glaring flaws here to me, but there is still a little bit to nitpick. Although the album opens and closes very strongly, I feel that it suffers from a bit of a mid-album lull. “Running from the Law”, “Apollo Rising” and to a lesser extent “Master of the Deep”, are a small step below the rest of the album and feel like they relatively plod along. With that said, they’re still great songs that are just unfortunately overshadowed by excellent songs.
Mirror’s Pyramid of Terror is a standout release among what feels like a year of standout releases. Their style is a very refreshing take on a classic sound that we can all connect with and it takes talent to make it as fresh and enjoyable as Mirror have. Their self-titled debut already found its way into a regular listening pattern for me and Pyramid of Terror will surely follow suit. I cannot recommend this album enough.
Album rating: 92/100
Favorite track: Secrets of Time
Official release date: June 28th, 2019