Every now and then, you get a group that doesn’t just wear its influences on its collective sleeve, but takes out a multi-story flashing billboard with them. VIA MISTICA is one such band; it’s hard to get anywhere in their promotional material without seeing them compared to pre-“Musique” THEATRE OF TRAGEDY. They’re label seems to think they’re keeping the traditional TOT abandoned in 2000 alive. I disagree—VIA MISTICA’s sound is much more akin to RAIN FELL WITHIN; female-fronted Gothic Metal with Progressive touches and a Doom attitude, even if not a Doom sound.
VIA MISTICA was formed in 1998 in Poland and released demos in 1998 and 1999. They got some label attention, but internal schisms and instability prevented them from releasing their debut, “Testamentum (In Hora Mortis Nostre)” in 2003. “Under My Eyelids” is their third full-length and the last two have received acclaim from zines and such “legitimate” critics, if not in fan reviews.
The initially intriguing aspect of VIA MISTICA is, of course, the presence of vocalist Kaœka, whose second X chromosome will cause many to immediately pass judgment on whether or not they’ll want to listen to this band. Though female singers are more and more common in Metal, they sill generate interest. More remarkable, Kaœka brings a cello into the mix and, unlike some other bands (SEASON’S END, I’m looking at you), you can actually hear it. There’s also a male vocalist (Marecki, also a guitarist), but unlike many male halves of dual-voiced groups, he sings in a clean tenor for most of the time.
Enough about the vocals—what really caught my attention even halfway through the first listen was the important role of the guitars. This style is usually dependent on saying “Oh, look, we have a pretty chick doing vocals!” and/or ubiquitous keyboards. Here you actually get the rare Goth Metal guitar solo and lots of them. The solo in “Dream II: Edge Of Light” really sticks out at me as a good example. Aside from the increase of the importance of the guitars and the decrease of the importance of the keyboards, there aren’t many surprises musically; what’s here we’ve heard before elsewhere, but it’s done well.
And that’s the important thing. VIA MISTICA isn’t changing the world and there are some places where they could use improvement (the album is a little overlong), but they play the style with conviction, with purpose, and, most importantly, with talent. I’ll be looking into the their back catalogue and recommend you do the same if you’re a Goth fan. (Online June 18, 2006)