MandragorA ScreaM – Nothing But The Best

Nothing But The Best Album Cover Art

MandragorA ScreaM – Nothing But The Best
Music For The Masses
Release Date: 24.09.21
Running Time: 70:12
Review by Dark Juan
Score: 7/10

Exhortations, greetings and salutations, dearly beloved followers of the Left Hand Path! It is I, Dark Juan, once again! I am here to share yet more nonsense and silly metaphors masquerading as knowledge about heavy metal. And disjointed words that somehow manage to arrange themselves into coherent sentences with no discernible effort from my good self. That, of course, is absolutely nothing at all to do with the sublime editing skills of the Queen of, Rear Admiral Princess Beth “If I Have To Edit Any More Of Your Fucking Idiocy I’m Going To Tear You A Brand New Arsehole, You Total Weapon” Jones, who runs what can only be described as a tight ship. I do get the feeling that I won’t be on her Christmas Card list this year.

For reasons of jurisprudence and accuracy I should note that Beth is a true friend, a magnificent gentleperson and a rather nice young lady, and not at all what I make her out to be for my own abstruse amusement. And I’m too scared of Beth “The Silent Wine Fuelled Assassin” Jones to make fun of her. She’s great. She would kill you with a hurdy-gurdy though before you could even lever your fat carcass out of a chair. I am privileged to share my inanities with you and her. Hopefully that’s got me out of that hole… (Beth here – I suppose it’ll do for now.)

We are now going to be transported to when goth was great and us sad old goths had The Batcave and The Banshee and other clubs where we could soak ourselves in patchouli and dance ethereally in inky blackness lit only by black lights, waving our hands around in front of our faces and being generally silent and miserable and smoking clove cigarettes and lusting after the wispy, consumptive looking, pale and dramatically made up taffeta gown clad ladies in colossal shoes. Part of the soundtrack to those august times was Italian gothic rockers MandragorA Scream (I’ve always hated that capital A at the end of the first part of their name) and their latest offering, being a retrospective of a career that has just hit 20 years old. MandragorA Scream came to my attention way back in 2002, when gothic metal in the form of Lacuna Coil and Nightwish and Within Temptation had something of a stranglehold on my musical taste. I had always found them too lightweight for my taste back then, and upon listening to them as an old, cynical man I might find myself enjoying them more…

MandragorA Scream’s sound can be best described by you out there using your little brains and imagining a blood-soaked, vampiric sexual liasion between KMFDM, Inkubus Sukkubus, Blutengel and The Mission with added metal guitars (heavily produced, a bit like Evanescence’s guitar sound). Vocalist Morgan Lacroix (an…. ahem… FORMATIVE influence to the young and frequently tumescent Dark Juan) surprisingly doesn’t have the operatic range of Tarja Turunen, Floor Jansen and Sharon Den Adel, but has a delivery more akin to the glorious Cristina Scabbia, but with a rasping, high pitched growl also at her disposal.

“Nothing But The Best” is a look back over a twenty year career and is a mighty listen, being well over an hour in length and opens with “Nightwish”, being the title of the song and not the Finnish operatic metal masters (and mistress), and sets the scene for the rest of the album in bombastic style, with lush keyboards and choppy guitars and the beguiling (yet still dangerous) tones of Lacroix sweeping over the top of the music, her slightly Italian accented delivery adding a subtle note of interest to a song that could have come straight from the stable of Sirenia or Within Temptation, with slightly less operatic histrionics and more goff splendor. You’ll have to forgive my typing, as the Dread Lord Sir Igor Egbert Bryan Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover has chosen to park himself on my lap and left hand and has made my recounting my opinion to you rather more complicated and uncomfortable than it needed to be. I’m one-handed typing for an entirely different reason than you might expect.

“Cryin’ Clouds” is a song that welds the chiming guitars and languid tempos and basslines of The Cure to Evanescence-charged distorted guitars and heavily gothic keyboards in the pre-chorus and chorus and middle eight, and Morgan launches into a particularly emotionally charged vocal delivery. I’d love to hear WaxWorm’s Duncan Evans and Morgan Lacroix collaborate on a song. It would be utterly wonderful. Five songs in and we are listening to “Rainbow Seeker”. This is one of the weaker songs on the record as Terry Horn (who is a much better guitarist than he is a singer) takes on the vocal duties – don’t get me wrong, it is a fine song, but MandragorA Scream suffer the same problem as Inkubus Sukkubus – Terry (and Tony McKormack of IS) are not very good singers, and would be better served leaving the vocals to the ladies (be they Morgan or the delightful Candia, in the case of Inkubus Sukkubus). Morgan Lacroix puts in an absolutely fucking powerhouse performance at the end of the song, though, and tears it a new arsehole.

Things get really interesting on “Dark Lantern” though, where Lacroix drops the languid gothic queen persona and turns full on fucking feral lycanthrope, being all snarls and predatory howling, instead of gentle crooning, and the music is an order of magnitude heavier than the previous half dozen songs, the snapping, snarling backing vocals on the chorus adding power to Morgan’s clean singing and the guitars going for the jugular instead of prowling in circles around you. “Ghost Of Swan” is a fucking power ballad. I hate fucking power ballads and this sounds like The Mission fucking about after getting horrifically stoned. Awful, pompous and overblown and a mark lost for stopping the gothic goodness and irritating the fuck out of me.

For the love of Satan, power ballads are bloody awful. You might as well record yourself crying in pain and shitting into a Tesco carrier bag after eating a handful of California Reaper chillis and winging it at the fucking wall. Gah. I’m off to be sick.

Thankfully, they pack it the fuck in and return to the heavy gothic rock after that. The music is full of little electronic flourishes and some killer guitar playing. The mix and production job can be variable – sometimes crystal clear and pin sharp, and at other times muddy and indistinct, but I will put that down to the fact that some of the music is twenty years old and no amount of remastering I going to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

So, MandragorA Scream are very good, but lack a certain je ne sais quoi that would lift them to excellence. I cannot place what leaves me slightly cold about them, as much as I am sitting here enjoying them. Perhaps it is the fact that there is occasionally too much electronics and sampling (“The Circus”), some filler (“The Circus” again, “Blight Thrills”) where a lack of internal quality control is painfully evident, or the fact that Morgan Lacroix’s (and Terry Horn, when he’s having a bash) voice is ALWAYS extremely high in the mix to the detriment of the instruments. There isn’t enough variation in tempo or sound either. MandragorA Scream stick to their blueprint faithfully. I wouldn’y know whether to count it as a demerit as it has served them admirably for a long career in a business where most bands have a life shorter than a dotcom trading company…

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Il sistema brevettato di valutazione degli schizzi di sangue di Dark Juan) awards MandragorA Scream 7/10 for a very good retrospective release that unfortunately lays their deficiencies bare. Still, there’s some fucking cracking tunes on the record though.

01. Nightwish
02.  Jeanne D’Arc
03.  The Time Of Spells
04.  Cryin’ Clouds
05.  Rainbow Seeker
06.  Dark Lantern
07.  Ghost Of Swan
08.  Blight Thrills
09.  The Circus
10.  Breakin’ Down
11.  Lamia
12.  Hekate En Erebous Phos
13.  Medusa
14.  The Devils Owns My Heart (This is what the EPK says it’s called…)
15.  In The Dark
16.  Baby Blue
17.  Spiritual Leadin’

Morgan Lacroix – Vocals
Terry Horn – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Max Rivers – Bass
Furyo – Drums


Mandragora Scream Official Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

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