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Megalomania (1986)

Mefisto was an underground black/speed metal band from Stockholm, Sweden that released only a couple of demos in the mid-1980s. The first of these two demos, Megalomania, displays a band that was already somewhat ahead of many of their peers. Mefisto had a very unique style that easily set them apart from other Swedish bands such as Bathory and Morbid.

The intro to "Missing in Action" is somewhat terrifying to hear, with the sobbing and shrieking. The acoustic guitar is reminiscent of similar passages found on Sepultura's Schizophrenia, though this was released in May 1986 and predates that album. In a short time, the song erupts with a hellish sound and goes straight for the throat. Sandro's vocals are pure demonic evil and suit this chaotic frenzy very well. This sound embodies all the darkness found in the Brazilian black/death scene but with a sense of melody derived from NWOBHM bands such as Satan. There are some riffs that even remind one of early Metallica. The musicianship displayed by Mefisto is actually a bit unexpected from this style, yet they really have something unique going on here.

"Frost of Inferno" has the unenviable task of following this brilliant song. It begins much the same, with a somber acoustic melody being accompanied by a distant and dismal lead solo. The image that comes to mind is of a forgotten battlefield, littered with bodies now frozen to the earth and covered in snow. The song slowly builds up, with Speed and Thrash riffs coming together to create an epic atmosphere. The sound is very harsh, with a lot of variety being shown in the vocal department. Some of these screams are truly not of this world. This is darker than Sodom or Kreator, more violent than Venom and it completely kills Hellhammer and old Mayhem in musicianship and songwriting.

The next song is "Betrayed Truth" and it has that NWOBHM feeling right from the beginning. This song rages at full speed throughout the first couple minutes before slowing down for a more melodic break in the middle. One has to hear this brilliance to truly appreciate it. The solo works very well with this, much like the hissing sounds added by Sandro.

This demo concludes with the very explosive song, "Act Dead". This is the shortest and most straight-forward of the songs, yet there is still plenty of variation in riffs and tempo. The intensity level is similar to Possessed, in a sense, and the song ends with another chaotic solo, much like a Slayer album.

Megalomania is a very strong release from a band that seemed destined for great things. It is a real shame that they only went on to put out one more demo before vanishing forever. This four-song demo is vastly superior to many full-length albums that were being released at this time.
(3 Apr. 2009)

The Puzzle (1986)

The Puzzle is the second demo from Sweden's Mefisto. It emerged from the obscure funeral fog a mere six months after their first demo, Megalomania. This one shows a bit of a different approach; what some would call more sophisticated, maybe.

"Hunting High, Die" starts out with an acoustic intro that nearly lulls you into a trance. It creates a rather tranquil atmosphere, almost similar to the intro to Blood Fire Death, which would appear a couple years later. Once the guitars, drums and bass all appear, a sense of tension and dread is built. The sound is remarkably clean for a demo, but it's not slick, by any means. The vocals seem to be buried in the mix, a bit, and the approach is more subdued and parts seem a little reminiscent of Destruction or Kreator. There are some faster parts, but the tempo is mostly mid-paced. The solos are executed well enough and the snare drum has quite a distinctive punch to it. The songwriting is a little more complex than the previous demo, but not by a wide margin.

The next song is "The Puzzle", begins with more of the pounding drums, which sort of equal the guitars, in terms of power. After a few moments, they settle down a bit so that the focus can go where it belongs; naturally, that would be on the guitar riffs and the vocals. There are several tempo changes here. Despite the harsh vocals and the morbid funeral bells, this recording is bereft of the black metal feeling of Megalomania. It seems that they took the slower sections and certain melodies and decided to expand upon those. This isn't a bad thing, but it does represent a clear progression in the band's sound. There is even a duel guitar harmony, near the end, that plays underneath a lead solo.

"Os Liberty" begins with some odd acoustic part, joined by the distant wailing of an electric guitar. This leads into a somber guitar solo and depressing bass lines that add to the despair. After a minute or so, this stops and the guitarist spends some time to show off his skills. The feeling created on this instrumental isn't so far off from a Metallica's "The Call of Ktulu", though not nearly as epic.

The final song is "Underground Circus". It's the longest track on here, clocking in at over eight minutes. It begins with the feeling of doom, as slow riffs are joined by a funeral bell. This almost sounds like it could fit on a Candlemass album. More melodic solos flow throughout the song. This piece consists, mostly, of mid-paced thrash riffs and slower doom riffs, as well. The vocals aren't as varied as on Megalomania, but Sandro does unleash some hellish screams, though they are used sparingly. The bass becomes much more prominent, later in the song, as the speed increases. It all builds to a hellish conclusion, ending with a lot of insane soloing, similar to the end of a Slayer record.

The Puzzle features quality befitting a full-length album, despite the fact that it is merely a demo. The sound is on par with many records of its day and the songwriting is, easily, on the same level as many of their peers. It isn't as raw as the previous release, which I missed, but that is simply a matter of personal preference. That these Swedes never managed to get signed and release an L.P. is a crime.
(1 May 2009)

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