Now, I hate to be a hater, but Mysterium Tremendum has got to be the worst album title ever. Whether or not it’s an Aldous Huxley reference, it is a ridiculous term and will easily fly right over the heads of most listeners, thereby nullifying any deeper meaning Mickey Hart was going for altogether. And beyond that, it doesn’t even rhyme. That’s the first problem with this record, and admittedly, it’s a surface issue. I was taught as a child to never judge a book by its cover, and I stick to that theory.
Of course, that becomes harder when a seven-minute track called “Supersonic Vision” exists, and lyrics like “Supersonic vision / As fast as words it flies / Into the heart of music / And takes it by surprise” fail to make any sort of sense in reality, sub-reality, hidden reality or parallel universes. So not only did Mickey Hart fail brilliantly here, but so did long-time Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, who penned the words to this tune. It’s a surprise, really, considering how much of the most beautiful music ever was produced by these two only 20 or 30 years ago.
Thankfully, the entire album does not live up to the gag-inducing overly-psychedelic imagery displayed above. Mickey Hart is a rhythmic monster, and overflows with musical creativity. Throughout the record he combines modern ambience with African rhythms, utilizing both modern technology and historical instrumentation. Songs like “Slow Joe Rain”, “Djinn Djinn” and “Ticket to Nowhere” are interesting to listen to and entertaining to absorb. In fact, the entire album lives up to that. Though it tries to be futuristic, its most stunning moments are thanks to its basis in tradition. Hart is no slouch on the drums—or as a musician—but he could use a little more help in the songwriting department.