Review Summary: Why do most of the talented doom bands ditch the genre? Mar De Grises haven't left yet, but they're very close.
Looking 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.
There are going to be those that lament the loss of the bleak atmospheres and crushing riffs, but it will be their failure if they dismiss Streams Inwards
based solely on what’s missing. Sure, this definitely isn’t the same heavy, oppressive band of a few years ago, but they’ve more than made up for it in other areas. The injection of subtle post and prog rock influences has resulted in a diverse album that is much easier to get through than previous releases. The songs are some of the band’s strongest and most creative, and ultimately, Streams Inwards
is a big step forward for Mar De Grises – a step that most people should embrace.