S.T. Mikeal

Visions of the Unknown

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Self-described as a collection of "never-meant-to-be-heard-by-others" recordings, Visions of the Unknown compiles tracks from S.T. Mikael's first two albums: Visions of a Trespasser and The Unknown. Centered mostly around his late-'80s compositions, the collection turns out to be a mixed bag. Mikael, a talented composer and multi-instrumentalist who sings and plays all the instruments on all but a few tracks, has imagination to spare and a unique vision -- an essential element for the psychedelic genre. Not surprisingly, he's also well steeped in classic rock and psychedelic traditions. "The Serpent," a shimmery, heavily phased track about "evil in the dawn of civilization," recalls Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Greg Lake-era King Crimson. "The Unknown," a nightmarish heavy rocker with Lovecraft-ian themes, showcases Mikael's blistering fuzz guitar work. Most amazingly, Mikael authentically re-creates sophisticated, classic psychedelic sound effects in his primitive home recording studio. However, extremely lo-fi production, amateurish playing (most notably in the drums), and off-key vocals in the higher register lines mar the work for the casual listener. There are enough brilliant moments in the two-CD set that one wonders what Mikael could accomplish with a full band, better production values, and greater care with the vocals. Ultimately, Visions of the Unknown is recommended for those dedicated to researching the outposts of the psychedelic underground.