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Mythos - Strange Guys CD (album) cover





3.07 | 22 ratings

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3 stars It's no wonder Mythos was never able to gain any career traction. Guitarist / front man Stephan Kaske was always struggling to keep up with changing times, and when he reassembled the band yet again in 1977 it was the third entirely new line-up in three consecutive albums.

Received opinion says the band, like so many others, lost a step when they simplified their style at the end of the decade. I would argue the opposite, at least for this effort: that once he was out from under the influence of Kosmische Rock guru R.U. Kaiser (on the lam in 1977 after the COSMIC JOKERS scandal), Kaske delivered his strongest album to date.

The sound was far more commercial, to be sure, but at the same time more focused, showing more muscle and punch in a single song than in both their previous albums combined. And because the band (in whatever formation) never had a firm grasp on the underlying ethos of Krautrock to begin with, the shift to a more transparent style didn't seem like such a retrograde sell-out.

That newfound energy is immediately apparent in the opening "Aeronaut", a relentless guitar-and-synth rifferama that I wish had continued for more than its five driving minutes. But the sudden ending makes for an effective transition to the much calmer title track, where you'll find a lingering echo of the band's Krautrock past, in the haunting combination of delicate flute and acoustic 12-string guitar. Here and elsewhere the power chords give way to brief moments of almost pastoral beauty, reminiscent of early GENESIS but in a more Germanic minor key.

Stephan Kaske wisely delegated lead-guitar duties to newcomer Sven Dohrow, who does his macho Arena-Rock thing all over songs like "Aeronaut" and "Powerslide", the latter sounding not unlike HAWKWIND demolishing a discotheque. Kaske's insecure vocals were still a weak link, but with the much stronger instrumental backdrop his singing wasn't such a conspicuous liability as before.

The end of the 1970s were in sight, but for the time being there was more than enough touches of ersatz-Prog Rock creativity to hold a fan's interest: in the pinpoint tempo changes of "Mysterious Scene"; the quasi-Celtic vibe of "Terra Incognita"; and the JETHRO TULL-like jamming of "Backstage Fumble" (gotta love that unexpected, Teutonic doo-wop vocal interlude too...) The album artwork is crummy, and the title itself is a little misleading: these guys weren't strange at all, although I suppose it sounded more attractive than "Derivative Guys". But at the end of the day this will probably be the one Mythos album I return to most.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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