Review : Mar De Grises - Streams Inwards
SputnikmusicLooking at The Tatterdemalion Express and Draining the Waterheart, it’s not hard to figure out why Mar De Grises are so loved within metal circles. They’ve built their career on delivering doom that is as powerful and epic as it is innovative. Without worrying about artificial limitations, they took post metal’s penchant for huge riffs and dynamic structures and combined them with doom’s sense of melody and melancholy to create a sound that was mostly their own. They also benefitted from the ability to restrain themselves from overdoing any one element. They were able to realize that melodic interludes, by design, aren’t supposed to be a constant part of any song and that well-placed tempo shifts are a huge benefit to music so commonly lethargic. Mar De Grises’ third album, Streams Inwards, builds on these fundamental ideas, but also finds them pushing in new directions.
The easiest way to explain this new direction would be to simply state that Mar De Grises have dumped their post metal influence in favor of post rock and a bit of prog – a fact that has had quite an impact on the band’s overall sound. Streams Inwards completely lacks the nihilistic atmosphere and crushing riffs of its predecessors. In fact, despite the death growls and double bass, there isn’t really anything that could be considered heavy. Songs such as “The Bell and the Solar Gust” work by fusing riffs best described as ‘doom-lite’ with expansive melodies that skirt the line between post and prog rock. It’s a quirky formula that is actually quite effective once people accept this unexpected change of direction. Surprisingly, though, this new melodic angle isn’t the biggest change that the band is expecting fans to accept. Beginning on the fourth track, Streams Inwards introduces an ambient influence that causes the songs to become a bit more formless and wandering.
“Spectral Ocean” introduces fans to this new approach through three minutes of lush electronics that pulse and crackle underneath a sparse keyboard melody. Before anyone cries about the introduction of electronics, it should be noted that their introduction is almost entirely responsible for the return of the desolate feel that is mostly missing from the first part of the album. It’s also their introduction that lends songs such as “Knotted Delirium” their unique edge – in the case of “Knotted Delirium”, it’s the piano melody that sounds as if it is being played underwater or through a warped analog tape. Closing track, “Aphelion Aura”, even takes things a step further by dropping the guitars altogether. On this song, additional layers of electronics are added to make up for the missing guitars and soft female vocals replace the growls. The slow transition from riff-centric tracks such as “Starmaker” to the eventual electronics-dominated closer is deliberate and skillfully done. It’s a conversion that makes the album feel like a complete journey; a journey that never becomes stagnant....full text
ThemetalforgeI’ve been lucky enough during my tenure at The Metal Forge to have had the opportunity to review each of Mar de Grises’ releases and have, over the course of their now three full length albums, watched the fledgling Chilean doom act evolve their sound in ways that I never would have predicted when I first heard their debut release, The Tatterdemalion Express, back in 2004.
Back in their early days Mar de Grises were an extremely promising doom band and even though the material they played was somewhat safe by doom standards it was also demonstrative of the quality that has consistently endeared me towards them. There is an unmistakable personal touch to the material that Mar de Grises writes that is all too often lacking from many of their contemporaries and is what I believe makes them the great band that they are. Whereas many other doom bands seem to be driven solely by their desire to create and promote a certain kind of emotional well from which to draw their inspiration, Mar de Grises have consistently been able to focus that aspect of their music through a careful and wholly believable introspective lens; something that is a product of a genuine emotive outpouring rather than something that perhaps isn’t necessarily all that genuine.
Streams Inwards has more in common with its predecessor, Draining the Waterheart, than Draining the Waterheart did with The Tatterdemalion Express before it. This is perhaps a result of a shorter time period between releases (it’s only been a two year wait this time as opposed to the four years between their debut and sophomore releases). As a result Streams Inwards serves as a logical progression from the stylistic shift Mar de Grises underwent on Draining the Waterheart which sees a less restrictive creative base from which to draw their music and a clear willingness to dispense with the burdening shackles of the doom genre as a whole.
The bulk of the material on Streams Inwards is undoubtedly melancholy but it simultaneously has a certain air of hope and positivity that surrounds it as well - not unlike the atmosphere Anathema channelled with their most recent release. It’s an interesting perspective that the band presents the listener and is one that encompasses the full range of musical light and shade.
New to the band’s sound this time around is the inclusion and frequent use of clean vocals. While this is hardly an original element for any doom band (or metal band in general for that matter) to possess, the textural and aesthetic enhancements to the album’s overall sound cannot be overstated. Vocalist Juan Escobar can now fully explore the darkness and light of the band’s music and in this he succeeds in no short measure.
Also worthy of mention is the fact that the songs on Streams Inwards all demonstrate an immense attention to detail that is leaps and bounds above what Mar de Grises have been able to show before. It’s true that the band has always known how to write a good song but this time around the consistently high quality of the material and the band’s ability to create an album that flows seamlessly between tracks is a thing of true beauty.
As someone who absolutely adores the depths to which a doom album can take you, I do sometimes wish Mar de Grises would orient their material into slightly darker territory but then, on the other hand, I have to remind myself that the music Mar de Grises composes is derived from a highly personal place and, as such, their material is more about them than it is the listener. Irrespective of my own personal wishes, however, this is a band that knows emotion and has demonstrated once again why they are one of the most important doom bands out there today....full text
MetalobsessionOverflowing with gorgeous, soaring melodies and creative writing, Streams Inwards, the third album from Chile’s Mar de Grises, is one of the most luscious, consistent and memorable death doom albums to ever grace this earth. It’s a big call, sure, but this album is something truly special.
You only have to listen to “Shining Human Skin” to grasp how absolutely massive this album is; layer upon layer of superb yet relatively simple tunes and atmospheric keys, gigantic but smooth growls and a climax that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand-up. But it doesn’t stop there, it’s the type of album that just grows and expands as time progresses. “The Bell and the Solar Ghosts” speeds things up whilst adding some proggy nuances into the riffs, before the album changes direction completely with “Spectral Ocean”; an ambient-ish track combining clean guitars and static-like electronic noises. “Sensing the New Orbit” kicks things up a notch, developing into one of the most dramatic tracks on the album, before “Catatonic North” really slows things down with some soft clean vocals and a mellower feel, for the most part. “Knotted Delirium” is as dark and twisted is it sounds, being comprised largely of haunting piano notes and odd little sound effects, and occasionally bursting into a monstrous wall-of-sound combining those elements with their usual melodic doom sound.
If those darker moments and electronic influences take your fancy, make sure to grab the limited edition digipack. The 9 minute bonus track “Aphelion Aura” expands even further on those, with eerie female vocals and barely a minute of metal to be found....full text
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