Arnaut Pavle - Transylvanian Glare (Mystískaos / Amor Fati)

Mystískaos is back, and just a few weeks in, 2023 feels like a year with a bright future ahead of it. And yet, what are we to make of the fact that the label trumpets its (re)entry onto the scene with this gritty and guitar-forward crossbreed of black metal (BM) and punky thrash from Arnaut Pavle? Why not resort to the atmospheric, hallucinatory dissoblack of its most celebrated standard bearers like Skáphe or Guðveiki?

Transylvanian Glare is a record in constant, violent motion – each track begins ‘in media res’, so to speak, immediately dragging the listener into a dizzying labyrinth at vomit-inducing speeds. This doesn’t mean the band lacks dynamic variety; “Viperblood Transfusion” is borderline blackgrind, but is followed by the stately and imposing drama of “With Sulfur Carriage”. Listeners come to feel hounded by a relentless haemovore as sonorous laughter (a la Daeva) peals around them, while "Final Descent" inters them in quickly-shovelled mounds of melody. This echoing malice is a reminder that the band have drunk from Mystískaos’ LSD-laced fountain, albeit less indulgently than their fellows. Elsewhere, straining lead-guitar flourishes further rattle the senses, exaggerated to extremes in the record’s nauseating conclusion. While Transylvanian Glare is more face-ripping than mind-melting, Arnaut Pavle's sound nevertheless has a depth worthy of cerebral labelmates Entheogen. They imbue their fiendish savagery with a proto-occult indebtedness to the recent explosion of ever-so-wonky raw BM – even down to its revival of Darkthrone’s second-wave vampirism. To call this release ‘subtle’ seems counter-intuitive, but there is more than meets the eye in Arnaut Pavle’s shadowy catacombs. This sinister mantle, perhaps, is what makes them such fitting heralds for a new era in Mystískaos' storied history – a vicious, contemporary recontextualization of a now iconic philosophy.