Hailing from Gävle, Sweden, Mara is coming from a fairly prolific country that’s been aggressively fronting the recent doom and occult rock trend; while this has resulted in a tremendous amount of recent Swedish revival material that’s incredible, it’s resulted in just as much as that’s terribly generic in the worst of ways. Now, after two years of effective hiatus, Mara has come back with a finished album that’s managed to stand out from their Swedish contemporaries by being bigger, badder, and just plain weirder.
The first word to come to mind when describing the new Mara album is “massive.” Right off the bat in the first track, Maran, you’re smacked in the face with a massive wall of fuzzy sound that fades back and forth between heavy riffs and slightly-weird melodic bits; soon, a higher pitched lead is introduced under the massive riffs, and Mara’s goal becomes apparent: to mix groovy, crushing doom with odd leads and the kind of bizarre harmonies that would probably leave many a guitarist (such as myself) baffled as to where Mara’s songwriters even get their ideas. Sometimes, both guitars sync up to form little melodic harmonized bits more reminiscent of traditional heavy metal than they are of doom; however, they all work flawlessly within the context of the album and never detract from the sense that you’re listening to an album meant to smother the listener with its intense, odd, doom-laden atmosphere.
Throughout the album, the leads and the heavier, Sabbath-inspired bits trade off as the vocalist, a higher-pitched, fairly unique-sounding fellow who goes by the moniker “Thunder,” fades in and out of focus with the riffs, often mirroring Ozzy Osbourne’s approach on the best Black Sabbath albums of not straying particularly far from whatever melodic line the guitars are playing. Simplistic but effective drumming supports the riffing in a way that’s never particularly out-there, but is never offensive or bad, either.
As Mara gets further and further in, the always-pervasive groove starts to take more hints from the more psychedelic side of stoner rock (on a couple of the tracks, at least), and the lead guitar goes from mostly being in sync with the rhythm in general doom fashion to throwing in some faster, friendlier blues-y lines that remind me a fair bit of the Golden Pig Electric Blues Band from Seattle, Washington. Going back and forth from this sound to the earlier one in the album is actually my only major complaint in the album; I much prefer the darker former sound over the stoner rock sprinklings of the latter, and the lack of stylistic consistency pulls me out of Mara a couple of times with each listen. Even with that annoyance, I still plan on picking up the tape at some point and don’t doubt that I’ll at least occasionally spin this for some time to come. It’s also worth noting that the reviewer constantly gets the melody from the middle of Greed stuck in his head and has learned to play it on his guitar.
Check ’em out here: http://maradoom.bandcamp.com/