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It's been a strong year so far for Ayloss, the mastermind behind Spectral Lore who partnered up with Mare Cognitum earlier this year for a magnum opus collaboration album that blew our minds.The Greek multi-instrumentalist succeeded wildly there, charting new territories with thickly atmospheric music made perfectly for cosmic exploration -- now, though, Ayloss has grounded himself in a new black metal style simultaneously more concrete yet as abstract as ever. The project is called Mystras, themed around Middle Ages history and brought to fruition in a much rawer, harsher capacity.

The debut release Castles Conquered and Reclaimed tells stories not of kings and royalty but instead the common folks who were more often than not trampled under despotic leadership. In that way, it finds much more "harsh reality" to echo than the more spacefaring black metal with which Ayloss has made his name; likewise, the sound on Castles Conquered and Reclaimed requires much more volume to resolve, but when it's cranked, the tunes bleed through the rawness with an especially beautiful and delicate touch. We're greeted with the signature undulations that make Spectral Lore such a tantalizing listen -- these songs feel effortlessly strung together and flow with particularly amazing aplomb -- but now, with Mystras, it's caked into a gritty concrete that, at times, can be a lot to digest.

Check out an exclusive stream of the album's third song "The Murder of Wat Tyler" (and check up on some Wat Tyler history) below in lyric video form to get a taste. For me personally, the more raw black metal is, the less chances there are that I'll find myself attached -- Mystras, though, is an exception, and I've found myself hooked on these nine chapters in what feels like a tome of rebellion and suffering. Enjoy.

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Castles Conquered and Reclaimed releases July 17th via I, Voidhanger Records in digital and vinyl formats.

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