Gothic metal scene isn’t prospering at this moment, but there are some high-quality bands that have made their names and now are firmly holding their positions (not in a mainstream way, of course). Mandragora Scream from Italy is one of those bands, so no wonder they can easily allow themselves to release best-ofs. And Nothing But The Best isn’t their first compilation of old songs, in 2008 Mandragora Scream has already released CD/DVD “Dragonfly”, but many years since have passed, and more good songs adorn this band’s discography.
Nothing But The Best (released by Music for the Masses) speaks for itself; this is a collection of gothic hits for a 25-year long career of Mandragora Scream. First songs are also the newest – from their latest singles, and then the sequence goes in reverse order. Two or three songs are from their debut album, then from the second, then third, fourth, fifth and finally the unreleased songs. Seven of seventeen songs are also remastered. So, this is a well-planned and thoughtfully considered sort of greatest hits, mostly these are popular songs, known to lovers of dark/gothic metal. Of course, devoted fans are still waiting for the new record; ten years have passed after the release of their last full-length album, but in 2020 we’ve got four new singles, so the fans were feebly muted for some time, reluctantly accepting a compilation instead of the brand new album.
The first and the newest tracks are primitive in a catchy way and are incredibly romantic, almost in a black/gothic manner (“Jeanne d’Arc”). Then we return back to the beginning of 2000s, when they have just started to write songs in the manner of The Birthday Massacre and with significant alternative rock influence (“Cryin’ Clouds”). The era of dark version of heavy metal from their sophomore album “A Whisper of Dew” (“Rainbow Seeker”) also offers us to taste some pop motives. “Madhouse” was also romantic and creepy, and the tender and delicate ballad “Ghost of Swan” perfectly describes the general sentiment of that period. Symphonic and electronic elements (“The Circus”) were added to their next release “Volturna”, still painfully melodic and technically primitive. “Luciferland” is also inclined towards dancy and pop sound with symphonic influence and casual lightness (“Medusa”). And from the earlier unreleased compositions there’s a mishmash of whatnot stuff – acoustic passages, dark electro and even trip-hop. Yeah, despite all this the music of Mandragora Scream fits perfectly well into gothic/dark metal boundaries, this compilation of the greatest hits isn’t about steady sameness, it is about almost invisible diversity in the forms of dark aesthetical beauty.
Mandragora Scream is known for their catchy melodies and dark dreamy mood and of course for the sensuality in a ridiculously romantic way. All these horror fairytales about vampires and the darkest forms of love emphasize even deeper the sensitive side of their music, but not in a vulgar way, this eroticism rather belongs to some kind of decadent art. And with the unique voice of their queen of darkness Morgan Lacroix, incredibly low and emotionally thick, Mandragora Scream gets this inimitable allure and charming piquancy, even after 25 years.
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