The Puzzle is the second demo from Sweden's Mefisto. It emerged from the obscure funeral fog a mere six months after their first demo, Megalomania. This one shows a bit of a different approach; what some would call more sophisticated, maybe.
"Hunting High, Die" starts out with an acoustic intro that nearly lulls you into a trance. It creates a rather tranquil atmosphere, almost similar to the intro to Blood Fire Death, which would appear a couple years later. Once the guitars, drums and bass all appear, a sense of tension and dread is built. The sound is remarkably clean for a demo, but it's not slick, by any means. The vocals seem to be buried in the mix, a bit, and the approach is more subdued and parts seem a little reminiscent of Destruction or Kreator. There are some faster parts, but the tempo is mostly mid-paced. The solos are executed well enough and the snare drum has quite a distinctive punch to it. The songwriting is a little more complex than the previous demo, but not by a wide margin.
The next song is "The Puzzle", begins with more of the pounding drums, which sort of equal the guitars, in terms of power. After a few moments, they settle down a bit so that the focus can go where it belongs; naturally, that would be on the guitar riffs and the vocals. There are several tempo changes here. Despite the harsh vocals and the morbid funeral bells, this recording is bereft of the Black Metal feeling of Megalomania. It seems that they took the slower sections and certain melodies and decided to expand upon those. This isn't a bad thing, but it does represent a clear progression in the band's sound. There is even a duel guitar harmony, near the end, that plays underneath a lead solo.
"Os Liberty" begins with some odd acoustic part, joined by the distant wailing of an electric guitar. This leads into a somber guitar solo and depressing bass lines that add to the despair. After a minute or so, this stops and the guitarist spends some time to show off his skills. The feeling created on this instrumental isn't so far off from a Metallica's "The Call of Ktulu", though not nearly as epic.
The final song is "Underground Circus". It's the longest track on here, clocking in at over eight minutes. It begins with the feeling of doom, as slow riffs are joined by a funeral bell. This almost sounds like it could fit on a Candlemass album. More melodic solos flow throughout the song. This piece consists, mostly, of mid-paced thrash riffs and slower doom riffs, as well. The vocals aren't as varied as on Megalomania, but Sandro does unleash some hellish screams, though they are used sparingly. The bass becomes much more prominent, later in the song, as the speed increases. It all builds to a hellish conclusion, ending with a lot of insane soloing, similar to the end of a Slayer record.
The Puzzle features quality befitting a full-length album, despite the fact that it is merely a demo. The sound is on par with many records of its day and the songwriting is, easily, on the same level as many of their peers. It isn't as raw as the previous release, which I missed, but that is simply a matter of personal preference. That these Swedes never managed to get signed and release an L.P. is a crime.