The info sheet writes about early THEATRE OF TRAGEDY, of "moving hymns of death, despair and love" and a unique atmosphere through the use of a cello. For a young band that only offers us their debut with "Testamentum (In Hora Mortis Nostre)" ("Testament (In The Hour Of Our Death)") pretty big words that the record label presents us with and with that puts quite some burden onto the shoulders of the band, which all too often proved to be too much for many hopeful newcomers. In these cases I approach the whole thing with a rather ungood feeling, because the expectations are raised quite a bit and only too often it won't be fulfilled in a way that you would hope it would be.
As I have been/am a big fan of old THEATRE OF TRAGEDY, I, of course, have been very anxious to hear how this Polish sextet does in the fight for the throne of Gothic Metal with alternating vocals. The basic line-up is almost classical for this style, with male growls, female angelic voice, keyboards and as own accent the already mentioned cello. So with the exception of the string instrument nothing that would VIA MISTICA would really set apart from the rest of competition. The thought of bands like DELIGHT or CEMETERY OF SCREAM, which, also hailing from Poland, are in similar waters and definitely are among the higher to extra class, still gives me hope.
As soon as you put "Testamentum (In Hora Mortis Nostre)" into the player, it gets clear quite fast that in the case of VIA MISTICA the whole thing is done really well, but the laurels are hanging a little too high still, because their influences, which mostly come from the Norwegian area (THEATRE OF TRAGEDY, TRISTANIA), at times come through very obviously, especially Kaska's vocals are at times very close to early Liv Kristine Espenaes, as showcased in the (after the title intro) more than eight-minute "I Would Die", which is completely sung by her. Still a good song.
The following "Sacred Whisper" then for the first time sees the grumpy voice of Marecki, which now truly gives the whole thing a THEATRE OF TRAGEDY feeling, very atmospheric and mostly slow-paced, with the almost fragile sounding vocals of Kaska it really almost sounds as if the Poles tried to reanimate the spot vacated by the Norwegians. The cello is another very good argument that they can throw into the fray. "Valley Of Fear" is another one, with a great Spanish guitar towards the end, which brings its very own touch into the song and just sounds great! A song like "Blaze" again lives from the cello and the basic structure, which again differs from the standard.
What remains in the end is a good album, which gives me as old T.O.T. fan quite some hope that with VIA MISTICA a band is growing up that can follow them up, the potential is there, even though not everything sounds as it was supposed to, but you should neither forget that "Testamentum (In Hora Mortis Nostre)" still is a debut, so there is enough space for evolution and redefinition. So far an interesting and promising album, which you should have heard as a fan of the Norwegians. (Online November 2, 2003)