Tearing out of the gate with all the fury and ferocity of their fire-breathing, flesh-eating namesakes, Calgary doom-noise duo (and newest members of Sonic Unyon Metal) Mares of Thrace have unleashed the follow-up to their critically-acclaimed 2010 debut The Moulting. Titled The Pilgrimage and broken into three acts thematically tied to the biblical story of King David and his seduction of Bathsheba, this record is without a doubt one of the most evil things I have ever had the privilege to listen to.
Seriously. It’s this and Reign in Blood.
The duo’s sound has been refined quite a bit since The Moulting. The former bassist in Juno-winning metallers KEN Mode, Thérèse Lanz’s uses a super-modded baritone guitar (complete with a bass pickup designed by Converge’s Kurt Ballou). It’s an instrument capable of sounding crushing, crunchy and perfectly melodic all within the same song. Stefani MacKichon’s pounding, jazz-trained drum attack also demands some serious kudos, but Mares of Thrace have axed some of the more experimental breakdowns that could be found on The Moulting in favour of a more consistent assault on the eardrums. Lanz’s vocals are perfect for the kind of rabid-animal sound the band’s music creates, and she shifts effortlessly between her hardcore-influenced screams and a damn impressive death growl.
Tracks like The Gallwasp really define what makes Mares of Thrace such a pleasure. It begins with a slow, lurching riff that violently gives way to MacKichon’s relentless pounding of the drum and Lanz’s horrific shrieks and roars. This is strongly-flavoured extreme metal and it tastes so good (though I suspect if Mares of Thrace were a beverage, it would be a rather noxious flesh and blood puree).
The duo still find opportunities to play with their sound – a too-rare thing in modern heavy metal. The centrepiece of Act III’s The Three-Legged Courtesanis a thoroughly sinister-sounding riff that reminds me of the kind of void-evoking doom metal that Pallbearer recently mastered so perfectly. Make no mistake though, Mares of Thrace are all about throwing you into the fire, and there’s no shortage of wailing and gnashing of teeth on The Pilgrimage.
If you’ve read our coverage, you might remember my bellyaching about the lack of attention paid to metal in the Canadian music industry. The Pilgrimage could potentially do everything to change that. This album is all venom, fury and fire. Let’s hope it peaks the interest of the metalheads on the Polaris Prize jury this year.