Mar de Grises
A modern doom masterpiece
I’ve been lucky enough during my tenure at The Metal Forge to have had the opportunity to review each of Mar de Grises’ releases and have, over the course of their now three full length albums, watched the fledgling Chilean doom act evolve their sound in ways that I never would have predicted when I first heard their debut release, The Tatterdemalion Express, back in 2004.
Back in their early days Mar de Grises were an extremely promising doom band and even though the material they played was somewhat safe by doom standards it was also demonstrative of the quality that has consistently endeared me towards them. There is an unmistakable personal touch to the material that Mar de Grises writes that is all too often lacking from many of their contemporaries and is what I believe makes them the great band that they are. Whereas many other doom bands seem to be driven solely by their desire to create and promote a certain kind of emotional well from which to draw their inspiration, Mar de Grises have consistently been able to focus that aspect of their music through a careful and wholly believable introspective lens; something that is a product of a genuine emotive outpouring rather than something that perhaps isn’t necessarily all that genuine.
Streams Inwards has more in common with its predecessor, Draining the Waterheart, than Draining the Waterheart did with The Tatterdemalion Express before it. This is perhaps a result of a shorter time period between releases (it’s only been a two year wait this time as opposed to the four years between their debut and sophomore releases). As a result Streams Inwards serves as a logical progression from the stylistic shift Mar de Grises underwent on Draining the Waterheart which sees a less restrictive creative base from which to draw their music and a clear willingness to dispense with the burdening shackles of the doom genre as a whole.
The bulk of the material on Streams Inwards is undoubtedly melancholy but it simultaneously has a certain air of hope and positivity that surrounds it as well - not unlike the atmosphere Anathema channelled with their most recent release. It’s an interesting perspective that the band presents the listener and is one that encompasses the full range of musical light and shade.
New to the band’s sound this time around is the inclusion and frequent use of clean vocals. While this is hardly an original element for any doom band (or metal band in general for that matter) to possess, the textural and aesthetic enhancements to the album’s overall sound cannot be overstated. Vocalist Juan Escobar can now fully explore the darkness and light of the band’s music and in this he succeeds in no short measure.
Also worthy of mention is the fact that the songs on Streams Inwards all demonstrate an immense attention to detail that is leaps and bounds above what Mar de Grises have been able to show before. It’s true that the band has always known how to write a good song but this time around the consistently high quality of the material and the band’s ability to create an album that flows seamlessly between tracks is a thing of true beauty.
As someone who absolutely adores the depths to which a doom album can take you, I do sometimes wish Mar de Grises would orient their material into slightly darker territory but then, on the other hand, I have to remind myself that the music Mar de Grises composes is derived from a highly personal place and, as such, their material is more about them than it is the listener. Irrespective of my own personal wishes, however, this is a band that knows emotion and has demonstrated once again why they are one of the most important doom bands out there today.
(Season of Mist/Riot! Entertainment)