Mystica Visio – Mystica Visio II


Artist: Mystica Visio

Album: Mystica Visio II

Label: Wyrm Lodge Records

Released: 9/4/2021

Country: Brazil

Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes

Mystica Visio returns with their second effort Mystica Visio II, coming off the tails of the well-received original self-titled release. While I don’t have the depth of knowledge of the first release compared to the second due to constant listening, I can still feel confident in claiming that whatever mystic or secret rites performed (the meaning derived from the Latin Mystica) to create such a brilliant piece in the initial self-titled album, still hold fast for this second entry. Mystica Visio II is a progressive exploration of Old School Dungeon Synth with a contemporary twist that not only keeps it fresh while being respectful of the content that it draws upon, but incorporates enough personality to not simply be a derivative of what it is trying to respectfully pay homage to.

Mystica Visio II is a record with a deceptively modest yet straightforward premise that ultimately serves to provide the listener with a template of what to expect while serving as a bridge for the progression of the record.

“Let’s sit by the fire. There are new stories to be told. They are old stories…. they become new stories, every night…”

The record opens with the aptly titled, The Curtain Opens, and is near-operatic in fashion. The opening chords hit with a heavy, tremulous sound of a pipe organ whose keys sound like they’re rooted under a patchwork of gnarled roots and cemetery soil, a likely spot for a dungeon for the likes of Mystica Visio. There is a fair amount of repetition, reminiscent of early Dungeon Synth, though sans the lo-fi, redubbed tape quality that gave the originals their rustic charm and distinct sound. This does not mean that Mystica Visio II isn’t without charm (I wouldn’t be covering it otherwise), it is just that there is a clear line being drawn as to what elements are not being adapted, and it works rather well in this instance. Perhaps there could be something to gain in having a grainier sound to this track, but I feel as if it would be a disservice to the track itself, as there is more of an ethereal, transcendent atmosphere attempting to be created rather than one more raw, leaning more towards the Dark Ambient.

Opening the Storybook by Candlelight follows with more of a layered and textured sound, while keeping a repetitive pattern. The other main difference between the two tracks (aside from their run times), Opening being almost three times the length of The Curtain, is how the former builds upon itself, introducing new elements as it progresses to keep the track dynamic despite the repetition. The way Mystica Visio accomplished this is twofold. A simple piano melody that changes throughout and signifies a movement shift within the piece while remaining consistent within the movement, and a more consistent a cappella type choral component that is surely constructed via synth as it is a constant execution that creates an eerie yet calming connective atmosphere. One of the aspects I love about this track, and the reason for it being my favorite of the record, is how there is an interplay between the piano component and synth just south of the middle of the track, where the piano seems almost tripped up, or haunted by the synth that comes in with a nigh buzzing quality in how it fades in and out. This creates a neo-noir feel, and perfectly encapsulates the painting by the French artist Odilon Redon utilized as the album artwork; of the new and strange gazing into the hollowed eye sockets of the past.

Working our way deeper into the intertwining aspects of the piano-synth combo, we soon get introduced to a jazz element in the way the piano breaks away and freely flits about before settling into the repetitious pattern once more, like it is trying to escape the haunting synth notes that seem to continuously dog it. Finally, there is a maddening escalation around the same three or four keys that increase in rapidity and strength, sounding at one point like the keys are being slammed more than played, before a drop off into a single key being struck with an inversely decreasing, wobbly velocity, like a rubber ball nearly settling after it’s been dropped from a large height and going manic before lying still. The last few moments of the track are given to a crypt like croaking and wallowing of the synths that fails just before the echoey voices fade into nothingness giving it a quality that feels like something grave has been laid to rest.

Working off that build up and release of tension is Do Not Awaken the Sleeping Witch, beginning with its own version of tranquility that is rapidly dispelled by a rising chord hold that shrills out. Emerging from this rather jarring beginning is a methodical, plodding track that creates a rhythm all its own as if the track were alive and breathing. The patterned fade ins and drop offs create the impression of a foreboding danger lurking, as there are moments of harshness created by the volume of escalation while intermixing it with trilling notes that sound as if they belong in a lullaby rather than a soundtrack to creep through a foggy graveyard, which is what the rest of the track feels like. This technique also creates a lulling feeling with a mysticism all its own, entrancing in its beauty and unsettling in its feeling of unpredictability.

Further cultivating this sense of unpredictability in a divorce of the repetitious modality of dungeon synth antiquity, The Forest Claims Their Birthright Over the Land comes in as one of the more contemporary pieces. The track is largely an ambient Noise one, that favors samples of birds chirping and empty droning spaces to grow the atmosphere. If Opening the Storybook was a trek through foggy graveyards, then The Forest is a timid resurgence of carnality that makes one more apprehensive then anything. There are odd bumblings and churnings throughout the phased out synth chords that hit like beams of light through tree limbs on an overcrowded canopy floor, and quavering bass lines that give a sense of verdant growth on the cusp of explosion. Again there is an intermixing, this time of feelings, those of trepidation mixed with awe, that serve to keep the listener ensnared as a very distinctive style begins to emerge with each passing track, ending with a climbing tremulous and shaking chord that increases in volume, surely to end in some form of cacophonous rapture, yet only to be diluted and hushed out of existence to usher in the next piece.

The Solitary Life of the Marsh Imp begins with a ghoulishly menacing synth that is reminiscent of the glory days of Giallo film and the atmospheres they worked so well in conjuring. It is not long however before Mystica Visio exerts its own style and becomes a hypnotic delve into a fusion of contemporary Dungeon Synth and Dark Ambient, as the synths begin to twist and wind as though the transformative evolutionary processes were happening in between our ears. Though this track is heavier on the Dark Ambient aspect, it still utilizes core Dungeon Synth tropes to make it a beneficial addition to the record rather than a distracting detraction. For one, it relies heavily on repetition once again, but it is also utilizing the darker intonation of drawn-out synth keys to create a void-like atmosphere that feels cavernous in its depth, with the repetition only serving to widen the gap and deepen the pit so that you have a hard time imagining life outside the space that is created for brief moments of escapism.

Though this latter aspect may seem intrinsically linked to Dark Ambient, and it most definitely is, I would argue that Dark Ambient, while despairing at times, is not nearly as nihilistic as Dungeon Synth. This is most true especially of Old School Dungeon Synth, with its traceable roots back to early Second Wave Black Metal whose subject matter was most always overtly grim and brimming with cold brutality, thus making the minimalistic offshoot even more so within its own right. There is also a level of nihilism implied within the tracks name, The Solitary Life of the Marsh Imp, and even extended to the creature’s residence, in a harsh, often inhospitable landscape to those that are not scavengers and willing to feed off the dead and decayed matter to survive.

The Alchemist’s Laboratory is yet another venture into the more Dark Ambient side of Mystica Visio’s musically expressive leanings. While there is most definitely Dungeon Synth aspects to the track, it is haunting and echoey keys in addition to progressions that add atop one another to near cinematic effect. The reliance on the negative space to make those moments effective places it firmly in the Dark Ambient camp for me. Early in the track there are long pauses, where ambient noise is allowed to hold singular focus and create a foothold for the track where the listener is always tuned in, even if they may not recognize it. One brilliant move on the part of Mystica Visio in this instance, and one that makes the Dark Ambient aspect all the more effective, is the cutting out of the ambient portion of the track that has stuck with us throughout the track’s entirety just after the six-minute mark, causing us to feel an empty void in its place. What replaces it are high-end buzzing noises accompanied by what can only be described as synthesized frog croakings, the opposition between the two creating an even bigger disassociation making one feel as if they are standing on the edge of a precise with the floor having just given way with the depths still being learned as the horrifying seconds pass as you stare ever downwards. Thankfully this is only temporary and there is a resurgence, albeit slight, in the ambient noise to give comfort as the track comes to a close.

Putting On the Cloak of Invisibility closes out the record with a Dungeon Synth track proper. From the beginning we are given trudging and gloomy synth that wallows as it lumbers along. There are also intermittent percussive tracks that serve to increase the ominous factor, as they are played alongside a winnowing sounds of what could best be described as a violin under toxic water. The whole track reeks of a fetid odor akin to a damp cavernous dungeon that hasn’t seen life in a century, and I absolutely adore it. This track is in stark opposition to the record’s opener, The Curtain Opens, which, if one were to listen to the tracks back-to-back, Curtain would sound downright cheery and hopeful in its brightness. This speaks to the mastery by which Mystica Visio has brought us along this journey, for it to be so seamless as to be jarred when the record plays anew, having forgotten what has transpired along the way because of the attention that was drawn to the track being played at the moment. It also speaks to the dynamics of such a record, that one can be thoroughly engaged throughout to the point of exclusion of all else and allowing the record to happen to them and work its mysticism. It is quite easy to see how Mystica Visio came by their name, in part because it takes some form of magical vision to see a project such as this clear enough to accomplish it, in addition to the ability to share that vision with others in such an impactful way as to be transformative.

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