Review Summary: No mirage here...
There is no shortage of quality melodic metal from Finland. We all know and enjoy Amorphis, Insomnium, Kalmah, etc. and while the Swedes first gave us the sound, the Finnish have proudly grabbed the torch and ran. The genre has been labeled by some as tired and overdone, and at times I may agree, but the style of music we play is only as good as we make it. Earlier this year Marianas Rest gave us their third full length and it is another step forward in a string of quality releases. “Fata Morgana” is a dark and brooding gift, filled with doomy atmosphere and trudging tempos. The fifty four minute run time is in no hurry, and plays like a mood piece. It must be said that Marianas Rest have done much more here than just dole out another melodic death metal record. There are flourishes into every depressive metal genre, and all the textures and goodies you will find within will delight.
The vocals are assorted. We get some well executed spoken word and even some angelic female background vocals that add a wonderful diversity to the mix. They are accentuated by symphonic passages with strings and synths, as well as ghostly atmosphere in generous amounts. Some of these elements are the first things to drive me away from releases such as this, but Marianas Rest have executed all of these tricky additions perfectly. Never once do things feel forced or cheesy. The symphonic elements are well written, and expertly mixed. The production overall is very professional, and thoughtful. We don’t have over-the-top triggered sounding drums here and it’s a welcomed reality. The mix is spacious and enveloping, with all the sounds melding together to create a well crafted product. A great example of this is heard on “Advent of Nihilism”, at the four minute mark. Eerie strings build tension that lead into a gorgeous piece with octave chords floating seamlessly above layers of strings and piano. We then are thrown into a blackened vortex, and next treated to a perfectly composed guitar solo. All these elements seem completely at home with each other.
It’s difficult to go song by song, because the plodding nature of the record feels as if the entire scope is a journey to behold in one sitting. Along the way there are some can’t-miss moments. The exercise in dynamics halfway through the opener “Sacrificial” is wonderful, as well as the full on funeral doom breakdown that shortly follows. The vocal performance on the chilling end of “Glow from the Edge” makes the hair stand up. “The Weight” is the longest track here and buried right in the middle of the recording. It is an imposing and menacing heap of doom. It imparts feelings of weariness, despair and mystery that exposes a majestic beauty I can only find swimming in these stylistic waters. The album finishes with “South of Vostock”, which employs epic guitars, lovely female vocals and a symphonic funeral doom gait.
While “Fata Morgana” may not be the most original or important album of 2021, it is clearly well written, well crafted and performed with passion. In the seaside city of Kotka, the members of Marianas Rest may have looked out across the Gulf of Finland to see a mirage looming above the water. They may have been inspired by this, giving us a truly massive offering of Finnish metal. But make no mistake, this record should not be ignored or discarded as a mirage. It contains power and passion, and makes a huge statement for a band that has done nothing but improve on every release.