Mares of Thrace + “The Pilgrimage”
If you didn’t heard already, Mares of Thrace hail from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. One part Thérèse Lanz (“Guitars of various sizes, electronics, vocals, messianic complex”) and one part Stefani MacKichan (“Drums, salad, near-infinite patience”), they are coming to kick your fucking ass in 2012.
“Oh yeah?” … YEAH.
While “The Moulting” (2010) provided a captivating introduction, it’s clear from “go” that Mares of Thrace have risen to new heights on their forthcoming release entitled, “The Pilgrimage”. As it was on their debut, their sound is heavy enough to crush the skulls of lesser mortals and yet at the same time, their skillful playing and multifaceted compositions are enough to set even the strongest minds ablaze as well.
While the band have built a strong foundation with their previous work, there is no place in which they haven’t improved. First among the most notable achievements is the vocal performance and the way it was captured. Mares of Thrace are “lights out” heavy but the fact is that recording a woman’s voice presents different challenges than a your average Joe Leatherlungs. Thankfully, the acclaimed production skills of Sanford Parker were enlisted so it’s “mission accomplished’ on that front and it’s a noticeable improvement over the sound they had diled in on “The Moulting”.
The overall quality of the recording is a big step up and yet it still has a distinctive if not somewhat quirky sound. Without dwelling further on the production side, it’s great to hear the band with the benefit of skill and vision when it comes to the mix.
It’s interesting to note that Lanz’ guitar parts were recorded with a rather unique instrument: “I played all of my parts on my baritone” said Lanz. ”I have a baritone guitar that was custom-built for me by Kurt Ballou of Converge that contains a guitar and a bass pickup.” All things being equal, the drumming by MacKichan is outstanding, as well.
Beyond that, it seems that Mares of Thrace had already found their voice as artists already and have wisely chosen to maintain their focus and conviction rather than trying to tinker their way to greater success. Where “The Moulting” was a diamond in the rough, “The Pilgrimage” continues to unlock and refine the inherent brillance that’s been waiting to emerge: Each riff cuts a new surface to refract the next groove and highly dynamic musical structures unfold… each song infinitely capable of bearing the weight of their creation. This is probably as good a place as any to acknowledge the subtle influences that Canadian metal legends Voivod have had and Mares of Thrace do them justice.
Overall, there’s strong feeling of cohesion about “The Pilgrimage”. It’s well paced between different musical ideas and there’s a great balance between complexity and simplicity… between tension and release. It’s easy to geek out on all of the brainpower that went into creating this album but don’t let it go to your head - Mares of Thrace are all about kicking ass. You’ll be black and blue by the time it’s all said and done, trust me.
Simply stated, “The Pilgrimage” is a defining work that captures the full dimensions of the band’s artistic vision. Easily one of the first essential albums to come of 2012.