Mares Of Thrace - The Pilgrimage
2012, Sonic Unyon
The Mares return here with their dual sludge attack of vocals/baritone guitar and drums and the new album is actually even better than their excellent debut, The Moulting. To call their music sludge is possibly something of an over-simplification, but it's still fairly accurate in terms of giving a newcomer at least a vague idea of what's in store for them. The Pilgrimage is a seething mess of sweaty power violence-like hardcore/metal and roiling bluesy sludge and off-kilter, abrasive, slightly mathy noise rock. We're thrown, like ragdolls tossed in a dryer, from attacks of neck-snapping, boiling, off-the-rails bursts of aggression to slowly simmering, feverish undercurrents of barely restrained fury. All of it drenched in a dark, violent mood and an equally dark sense of humor, seasoned with a few pinches of electronic noises and sqeals. Thérèse Lanz's aggressively intense guitar work unleash a barrage of continous haymaker riffs, interspersed with Botch-like twisting melodies and dissonant passages, all the while working in tandem with the pummeling yet precise, drumming of her sister-in-crime, Stefani MacKichan, to create a rock-solid rythm section. Lanz's vocals are incredibly heavy, be they guttural growls or distortion-laden banshee shrieks. Sometimes I can hardly believe that Mares Of Thrace is a mere duo, considering the cacaphonous complexity of their music.
The brunt of the songs on The Pilgrimage are slow but often contain numerous interludes and separate parts, some of them with very different rythmical structures and themes. The album contains ten songs (one of them a short blistering rythmic noise track), all of whom are very individual entities, with their own very definite personalities and quirks and though it may take some time to get to know them it's worth it in the end. After the initial shock wears off one starts to notice the little details littering the Mares' music; the structural complexities and hidden melodies within the songs and you're starting to see how they relate to each other and sometimes create segues from one song part to another, or indeed, from one song to another. I get the feeling the order of the songs on this album was chosen very carefully to create a seeming whole, an entity larger perhaps than its constitual components. There's a flow to the music on The Pilgrimage that's truly impressive, and though the all the songs are memorable, a few of them stand out a bit above the rest; especially opener Act I: David Glimpses Batsheba, the monotonously jangly yet rumblingly heavy The Gallwasp, the brutally broken and splintered The Perpetrator with it's amazing chorus and Act III: A Curse Falls On The House Of David, with its brief charge of violent, hardcore murder-sludge.
Towards the end of the album we're treated to a slight shift in sonic intensity and the final two songs are a tad mellower, more somber and also less feverish, especially the lulling calm of the instrumental post-metal/stoner number The Three-Legged Courtesan... which morphs into ...And The Bird Sturgeon, with it's Neurosis-esque flow of epic melody and heaviness. If there are any weak points to this album, I most definately haven't found them yet, after several dozen sittings. The Pilgrimage is an absolutely astounding album and it will almost definately be on my Best Of 2012 list.