A master stroke in modern doom
Firebox Records seem to have an ever growing list of top notch bands on their roster including Swallow The Sun, Pantheist, Woods of Belial and Australia's The Eternal. Their commitment to quality doom music has been reinforced by their release of Mar De Grises' (Sea of Grey) The Tatterdemalion Express.
Whilst I detest the term, Mar De Grises' style of doom falls heavily into the progressive category. The band employs several styles on The Tatterdemalion Express to achieve their overall sound. At times they slowly plod through a funeral doom-esque piece, only to move on to a Pentecost III era Anathema sounding piece, then on to a Sigur Ros or Godspeed You Black Emperor! inspired piece. On paper this might sound unworkable, but to the contrary, the band has put together a masterful album that combines the aforementioned styles with their own unique sound.
The opener, El Otro, is a monster of a song that clocks in at nearly 12 minutes and is probably the most obvious reference to funeral doom on the album. It can take some serious perseverance to sit through though, which is definitely a good thing. A good doom song isn't meant to be easy to listen to. It needs to affect its listeners with feelings of despair and emptiness and utter sorrow. Too many 'doom' bands seem to have forgotten this. Extreme metal, yes even doom, needs to be just that. Extreme.
The second track, To See Saturn Fall, sees the album's pace quicken to the levels that you would expect from your average doom band, which is where the majority of the album stays. It is here that we hear some Silent Enigma inspired song dynamics which will play a major part in the construction of many of the remaining songs on this album.
The third and fourth songs travel along the same path forged by song two until the album is broken up by the instrumental masterpiece that is Self Portrait no 1. Performed purely on the piano, it is strongly reminiscent of a Chopin Nocturne and is surely one of the most inspired and haunting instrumental works I have ever encountered.
The final two songs share a light and dark relationship. Track six, Be Welcome Oh Hideous Heir, is more in line with the doom/death style, whilst track seven, Onirica, sounds as though it was inspired by the musings of bands such as Sigur Ros or Godspeed You Black Emperor! The song slowly and quietly builds itself into a final crescendo that is a fitting end to the album.
The production on the Tatterdemalion Express is at once subtle and powerful and does nothing less than compliment the album by allowing both the slow and soft to coexist with the heavy and loud. The sign of a well orchestrated album is one that only reluctantly reveals its intricacies through multiple listens and this is exactly what Mar De Grises have achieved with this release. On each listen, a new subtle element makes its presence known to the listener, making the album even more impressive.
In a scene filled with so many sub-par bands it is refreshing to discover one that has the goods to succeed. Unfortunately, as we are all aware, success does not relate directly to the amount of talent a band or person possesses. Ultimately the success of a band will depend on its reception by the general public, and I fear that Mar De Grises will be overlooked by the masses due to their complexity and non-conformity to well established (and beaten to death) trends in the doom genre.
For any discerning fan of modern doom, Mar De Grises' The Tatterdemalion Express will be a must have album that is a welcome change from much of the doom that is paraded around these days.