Mysterious Priestess are a rather unknown and underappreciated band. They've been relatively low key with releases in contrast to many of their peers but nonetheless deliver interesting music. The debut album, Agency of Fate, is primarily a melodeath album, but the band shows a lot of progressive flourishes that they would develop later on.
Swear Vengeance Against The God starts off the album on a bit of a worrying note. Not because of the music, but rather because of the production. It's really muddy and basically demo-tier. For whatever reason, only this track is produced this way, and from Summon The Guardian Angel onwards, everything gets much cleaner. These two tracks are fast-paced, melodeath, but there's quite a few progressive moments. You can find a few transitions and tempo changes that are rather progressive in nature. Summon The Guardian Angel carries an atypical song structure and also has a few time signature changes making it essentially progressive melodeath. The bass is also very reminiscent of progressive bands in its audibility, and the way it weaves its own path. Kei Koganemaru, the lead guitarist and vocalist, is the main brain behind the band and writes the songs. His vocals are mostly a midranged snarl that isn't anything terribly inspiring, but it gets the job done.
Things really pick up when Amaterasu rolls in. After the opening riff that reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean or something goofy like that, verse surprisingly transitions to a jazzy section with excellent basswork from Yusuke Sugiyama, jazzy drumming from Yohei Jimbo, and Kei's distorted snarling. The jazz breakdown is well incorporated into the song and fits the overall uplifting mood. The solo section is also excellent with a very nice piano break and guitar solo. This song shows pretty nice attention to detail and forshadows the band's future direction.
Not surprisingly, the most progressive work on here is the longest track, Seven Moons. It opens up with a sort of cheesy but interesting oddly-timed melody from a casio keyboard or something. Even though the song does use some pretty traditional tremolo picking, it's placed in a complicated rhythmic backing. There are many different sections that utilize more complicated playing, and the melody from the keyboard persists throughout the whole song.
Afterwards, the album does shift into a more aggressive and slightly more straightfoward gear for the next couple of tracks. Of course, there's still technical prowess with nice leads, solos and riffage, but its generally a more straightfoward, melodeath approach. The excellent closer, Eternal Calmness, opens up with a progressive riff and flaunts the band's experimental side much more. In general, Agency of Fate does feel a bit like an amateur album from an underground band, but there's quite obviously a ton of potential here. It's a very enjoyable album, but I enjoy the more progressive moments the most. Hindsight is 20/20, so I suppose this assessment is fundamentally unfair due to my familiarity with their second album. Don't get me wrong, Agency of Fate is great, but their second album would shift directions to a sound I like a whole lot more and sort of reactively makes the debut a tad weaker. But at the end of the day, this album has a ton of great music on it, and that's all that really matters.Rating: 75/100