While writing lyrics for the self-titled debut EP from Portland trio Mystrionics, singer and guitarist Aaron Stern was recovering from a debilitating back injury. Did the process help him find any answers about dealing pain?
If so, they’re personal, but “it was really helpful to write that stuff while recovering,” he tells me over the phone. Listening to the EP, you can hear the journey: questions without answers, a metabolizing of trauma and a gentle return to something like peace.
Mystrionics play progressive metal with the dark interlocking rhythms of Tool and the herky-jerky grooves of Primus. Stern’s anguished vocals, occasionally recalling Trent Reznor, alternate between whispers and screams, melody and aggression.
The blistering “Loose Face” could be an old Soundgarden track. Mystrionics songs start with riffs and build from there, Stern explains, and the music is lyrically dark and nihilistic. “Show you the side of me/Covered in lice,” Stern sings, also from “Loose Face.”
Mystrionics have been friends since middle school, and Stern says “time and chemistry” are what makes the creative partnership work. “We split in college and came back together about a year ago,” he says of the band. “It was music all the time.”
Overall, the debut, available now on all major streaming services and Bandcamp, is robust, with enough ’90s references for veterans of the era as well as young music fans enjoying the resurgence of styles from the time.