Extreme is a word meaning exceeding bounds, pushing farther into new territory, running away from the plain and ordinary. Extreme bands might be classified as fast, faster, or the fastest, the one who can blast beat at 365 BPM with roaring, 8 layer vocals. Extreme is a great many a things to a great many people. For Mar de Grises
, extreme music means being dense and dramatic, with full on intensity and brutality, to being lonesome and exiled, sounding thin and dry (or lush and beautiful) in a matter of seconds. Hailing from Santiago, Chile, Mar de Grises (meaning Sea of Grey) was formed at the turn of the millennia, creating Death Doom to the likes of old Anathema or My Dying Bride. This is their first album, The Tatterdemalion Express
, released four years after Mar De Grises formation.
Vocals are a very important aspect of the album, and vocals does this album deliver. And while this is his first album, Marcelo RodrĂ*guez, the bands then-vocalist, pulls off some deep and experienced growls throughout the album. As if he was doing it since he was a wee lad, Marcelo sounds like a deeper, bigger Mikael Akerfeldt, long and droning howls full of mixed expressions from melancholy to hate, converged at the same time. Very far from meager and weak. At the other end of the line is Rodriguezs' clean vocals. Dry is what one might immediatley concieve while listening, that and frail, and while that is true for most of his clean usage, he does have a little range. Demeaning and gloomy (especially on Recklessness
), he portrays an image of a raspy-voiced, skinny twenty something on his way to end a little, meaningless life. Yet here we also have a bit of real, full singing, on Be Welcome Oh Hideous Hell
, a style all his own. It has a sound reminisce if Agalloch were mixed with a side of Alcest, yet even that is a hideous description and does Marcelo no justice. And all three of these styles add up to make the detached, broken, yet unrelenting and hard-hitting impressive voice of The Tatterdemalion Express.
Drums are the framework of most songs and albums, and Mar De Grises have some. While the parts are written to perfection, with fills and patterns to accent galore, it is the way they are played that makes me unhappy. It seems Alejandro Arce, who is on the throne, has only one volume: loud. Absolutley fine with the heavy parts, as you would be drowned out, but on soft interludes, it's distracting and doesn't flow well at all with the paticular part. Like on Storm
, my would-be favorite track. When the vocalist is doing his soft, raspy, Rudy Ratzinger impersonation, Arce shatters my ears with hard-hitting madness that doesn't need to be. And the beginning to Onirica
has the exact same problem, it kills the part, the mood, and to some extent, the song. But aside form the hitting to hard, the drums have enough strut to make me proud, with reverberance and clarity being outstanding (as well as the entire production work), adding to the extention of long notes the album seeks to append.
Handled by Sergio Alvarez and Rodrigo Morris, the guitars have a pounding, edgy, and full tone, making the album massive and deep. Riffs are heavy in both variation and sound, and although there seems to be traces of deja-vu here and there, it doesn't take away anything important from Mar De Grises first effort. And of course with an album as two-sided as this, along with the crushing, somewhat bassy distortion of the six stringed insturments, there is also clean tones. Or tone, I should say, because the clean tones really are pure, a polar oppisite from its counterpart, and all sound the same. Though far from being a let-down, as there are exceptions on this album (interlude on Be Welcome Oh Hideous Hell
, for one), with a little chorus or reverb on some, and because Mar De Grises doesn't need that many channels to be great. And although nothing too technical is found here (who would expect it, anyways?), the strung out, long snarls of low tuned power chords are enough to accomidate for that and more. Even melodies are brought upon us because of the guitars, in nearly every song, the exception being Self Portrait No. 1, a purely piano track.
And on that note, keyboards, one of the most important insturments on the album, is next. What makes Mar De Grises so great is the sounds, melodies, and overall atmosphere that the keyboards bring. Some make the opinion that I'm wrong because the keyboards don't show up as much as anything else on the album, the least, in fact. And while that is perfectly true, they do appear enough on the album to make it what it is, a soundscape of iconic and mindful songs, songs that are defined and rich because of various, gloomy, downtrodden sounds and melodies. Which only leaves me with one complaint: not prominent enough. But, like the guitars with the technicality, the presence alone make up for the hinder. Beneath everything that makes a standard Metal band, the keyboards are the final, absolute layer that make The Tatterdemalion Express so different.
And here we have it; Mar De Grises first attempt at pleasing the Metal universe. Which indeed they do, with all the epic songwriting, insturments and whatnot. And despite the drawbacks that The Tatterdemalion Express has, like the loud drums and somewhat simple guitars, the goods vastly outweigh the band, a hundredfold. Thus if you love, like, or are even intrested in Death Doom, you need this album, second after only the immediate classics. Because with an album as strong, inveterate and lasting as this, you'll need something to fall back on over and over again after listening to magnum opuses.