Released: August 2018 by Terratur Possessions.
When reading through the album’s liner notes as you begin to settle in for this monumental experience (finally, the debut Mare album), it is easy to read through the “excessive creativity” statement with a grin, as on the surface it can seem deceiving. Mare are not excessive in their output in the traditional sense, having been around for 15 years and just now releasing their first album after 8 years of silence. Mare, along with other Nidrosian bands, has always operated on a more geologic time scale as opposed to the rapid album cycle that plagues most circles of music. This choice garners great respect from this listener, as it would be easy for Mare to simply cash in on their name and release above average music at a more rapid pace to quench the thirst of black metal maniacs. Just because 8 years has gone by since the last release does not mean this has been an inactive period, in fact that is far from the case as the depth of this album is overwhelming upon the first listen.
It becomes evident pretty early on that the focus of this album is atmosphere over technicality and breakneck riffage. Tracks usually revolve around one or two mid-paced main riffs with slight variations on that theme throughout. Each song is fairly lengthy, allowing for the heavy repetition to burrow into the furthest reaches of your mind, embedding you with curses long after the album reaches its conclusion. The first two tracks “Flaming Black Zenith” and “Blood Across the Firmament” brilliantly showcase the effectiveness of the hypnotizing monotony coupled with the colossal devastation of the guitars. The atmosphere is just darker with this guitar sound, which is heavier and more sinister than most albums that instead aim for the jugular with pure speed; this album repeatedly pulverizes you with the weight of the underworld. Upon close listens, it is the little nuances that will continue to make their presence known over the years. The drumming variation is the most obvious example, as the guy behind the kit never repeats any fill, but is on a rampage of pure imagination to deliver all the desired unpredictability. As you sink deeper into this album, you notice the guitar and bass psychedelically wandering around all over the tracks as you make a futile attempt to wrap your mortal brain around this dense sonic landscape.
One track that deserves standalone praise is “These Fountains of Darkness”, which is remarkable considering it is the shortest cut on the album. The song starts off at a fairly fast pace, with the bass guitar washing away all life with its poisonous tide. The vibe is endlessly sinister until the song takes an abrupt turn about 2:45 in, slowing down for an immensely powerful vocal crescendo. The tone of the song switches to become weirdly triumphant in this newfound desolation, with the main riff switching to a higher tone to match the slightly more uplifting qualities of the second half of the track. Throughout the seven minute duration, the drummer gets more powerful as the song advances, absolutely possessing the listener with unholy inspirational fills that put you in a trance. When this track ends, you are left in a bewildered state, utterly in awe of the spell that has been cast.
It is important note the all-powerful presence of the bassist Luctus, who is also a part of Behexen’s later albums as well as One Tail, One Head and other Nidrosian bands. While obviously this album is the work of a cohesive band, I feel that Luctus is an underrated force as a bringer of total darkness. Ever since he joined Behexen, their albums have taken on a heavier, more esoteric atmosphere than the raw black metal attack of yesteryear, and he brings the same to the table with this album. His basswork demolishes all in its wake, delivering a sinister backbone to every second of music to be found here. He is the architect of channeling the night within music, and every band he joins benefits greatly from his timeless evil talents. Bass is an oft-ignored nuance in a black metal album, but when it is executed flawlessly it deserves special praise.
Another track that has exceptional qualities is “Nightbound”, one of the longer tracks here. A slight echo on the vocals tells you that this track is about to take you to another dimension, and it fully propels you outward with the insane transition roughly 6:30 in, followed by the two main riffs trajectoring towards an inter-planetary collision of universal magnitude. The swirling conclusion to the track is totally mesmerizing, and once again the drummer is emerging from the chaos by providing the perfect barrage to this nightmarish downward descend. This track everything distilled about the Mare experience, and why they are such a potent musical force. The monotonous riffs create an illusion of safety and predictability while the band is concocting dismal eulogies that use a deceptive template in order to achieve maximum effectiveness. From the almost hidden guitar psychedelics to the ethereal beauty in the outro of “Labyrinth of Dying Stars”, there is always something unexpected lurking in the shadows of this album, which not only makes it great today, but will prove to stand the test of time as a blackened obelisk in a vast meadow of unmarked graves.
Beyond books and religion
Beyond mind and thought
Beyond life and death
In dark pristine wilderness
Lieth the true altar of Satan!