Metal is far more experimental than the masses would give it credit for, but black metal has always been in a league all of its own. Beyond mere amplified guitar-based music and feeding expression that goes beyond ten tracks and as many ideas for good riffs that you and your mates can muster. Sure many black metal bands still prefer that expression to be within those snow-laden forests where the genre began in earnest but it is still amazing to find what can be achieved even within those confines. Testing the boundaries of where black metal ends and a more progressive approach to aesthetic noise begins is Germany’s Mosaic. The music is rooted firmly in the old school but with an appreciation that rising above the confines of traditional structures can pay dividends when it comes to atmosphere. Even when they do get around to producing traditional black metal, Old Man’s Wyntar sounds like something echoing from over distant valleys and slowly enveloping you rather than charging towards you and trying to flay you alive.
Mosaic has a grim, remote almost medieval ambience to its music which manages to be both sparse and heavy with ideas at the same time. Sometimes mournful wails, insistent invocations, keyboards, percussion and high pitched guitars hovering over the mountains that you could easily mistake for the sound of shrill and distant pipes. When it comes to the actual songs (there are really only two extended tracks here that really count as music in the metal sense rather than eerily explorations of sound) the effect is more just adding to the grand, emotionally unsettling patchwork. The repetition and wilful weirdness is all very 1990s. It’s skilfully done even if it never quite manages to separate itself from the old and head away from those well trodden snow covered paths.
Arguably it’s the ambient and more experimental sections that stick most prominently in the mind here. There are times when Mosaic takes you right into its weird and wonderful world that is probably best described as ‘a day in the life of a medieval castle in the middle of nowhere where nothing much happens but what does happen is some very weird shit’. It’s worth pointing out too that this really this is an EP rather than a full-length albeit at around 45 minutes and boasting a striking creative package (the grainy, snow covered Bavarian castle on the cover with a shady figure in the foreground nicely sets the tone of the album). On that measure they have managed to pack an awful lot in. But broadly speaking most people would recognise early Burzum or Dark Medieval Times-era Satyricon in here while adding in a bit of the endless scope of the more recent progressive explorations into ambient black metal which plunges you headlong into a timeless world where it’s often difficult to see where you’ve come from or exactly where you’re going to end up.
And even within all that folky ambience that occasionally creeps in, Old Man’s Wyntar has a sharp, emotional edge. This is more about creating bleak black metal embedded within a bleak and poignant ambience. A vision realised. Mosaic’s aim to quite simply to transport you to another world of a pure and endless mystic winter. Even if that vision may seem all too similar to many of us, I would say that Mosaic has gone someway to producing something that can present it to you in sharper, more carefully crafted tones than many bands have managed to do. A door into another world and definitely one for the intrepid explorer into the depths of black metal’s arcane roots.
(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)