In 1985 Roberto Morbioli aka Robert Measles and his doom outfit called Black Hole introduced the heavy metal world to an occult vision called Land of Mystery. After their first demo in 1983 – which was quickly put together and recorded in poor quality – Roberto Morbioli and his bandmates Nicola Murari and Mauro Tollini went on to record their first album.
While the 1983 demo sounds more like a mix of proto heavy metal and pyschedelic blues rock, Land of Mystery stands out with a distinct sound that managed to place Black Hole uniquely in the doom metal scene of the mid 80s.
At that time bands such as Death SS and Paul Chain emerged from the italian doom metal microcosmos. Typical for those groups was the love for the occult and horror, resulting in an atmosphere that expressed said passion in the most horrific and creepy way possible. In doing so they managed to create a sound that was distinctly different from the doom we know from the United States or from the UK.
Black Hole definitely moved into the same general direction, however they stand out with a more sophisticated and original sound compared to the previously mentioned bands. The delivery of Morbioli’s vision couldn’t have been more electrifying. One moment you’re engaged in a down-tempo heavy rock orgy accompanied by church organs and pulsating bass lines, the next moment you’re blown away by the pristine rawness of the guitar and sinister sounding epic chants.
The sound on Land of Mystery can be described as a colorful blend of classic rock and monumental funeral music with an occasional and uncanny outbreak of horror-synths. The heavy metal and at times blues rock influenced riffage, as well as synthesizers and organs that make you feel as if you’re in the middle of a black mass are harmoniously united in what resembles a horror-movie soundtrack. Some find the synthesizers cheesy. I say it is a necessary means to convey the Land of Mystery feeling. The atmosphere fluctuates between dark and gloomy, at times drifting away into the realm of the psychedelic. In Spectral World for instance, the synthesizers utilized at the beginning of the track which mimic a siren, create a particularly trippy sound. If you’re a lover of italian b-movie horror classics such as Suspiria, Zombi or City of the Living Dead, you’ll definitely notice the influence the soundtracks of these movies had on the songwriting, which is to me one of the reasons why it makes the listening experience so captivating.
One of the elements of this record that caught my attention right from the beginning is the thick & prominent italian accent. I truly couldn’t imagine the lyrics delivered in fluent english. It would just destroy the whole vibe going on. It’s an essential part of the listening experience, too. A key element among many to discover within this rarity.
The songwriting is outstanding. An excursion between the occult and the psychedelic awaits you on this ghastly masterpiece of italian horror. Evenly balanced in the instrumental mix and slowly creeping and building up to monumental climaxes from the first to the last song. The warm & juicy bass, which stands out dominantly, as well as the crunchy guitars turn the listening experience into a very pleasant one throughout the entirety of the release. Just the right amount of reverb helps in creating the dark and menacing atmosphere on Land of Mystery.
Beneath the tracks lies a deep fascination for the occult and a clear vision of the unique aesthetic which the band would display throughout their image, the album artwork, the sound and their live gigs, too. This is not just another Doom record or Black Sabbath worship – it has it’s own unique place in metal history and perhaps it is so unique, that only very few can actually sympathize with Morbioli’s vision. For all I know, it is amongst the most authentic and obscure recordings of the mid 80s known to me within the realm of heavy rock music.
Since we’re discussing the uniqueness of this album – there’s almost no way around the peculiar artwork decorating the album’s front. A weird looking painting created in a very amateurish way, depicting what seems to be an alley of coffins pointing towards a cracked up skull. In an interview with doom-metal.com Nicolali Murari explains that it was originally a concept of Roberto Morbioli (guitar,vocals) drawn by Marco Fill, bassist of the venetian doom metal band Sacrilege. It stands in perfect synchronicity with the atmosphere the music on this album conveys. It has a childish touch to it and it definitely catches the eye. It tells a story and invites you to a journey. A journey to the Land of Mystery.