Cities Of Mars - Temporal Rifts - (9.5/10)
Published on October 6, 2017
Last year, the Swedish doom machine Cities Of Mars seriously impressed us with their booming EP Celestial Mistress. Twenty-seven minutes of clamorous stoner metal with its unique sci-fi concept twist made for a release with quality as well as quantity. Here in 2017, after signing with Argonauta Records, the Swedes are finally ready to unleash their first full-length upon the world. Don’t be fooled by the length; although it may be no more than eight minutes longer than the EP, it shows an expansion in songwriting prowess as well as their overall sound. Temporal Rifts continues the adventures along the barren Martian landscape, propelled by crushing riffs and swinging tempos that both enthral and captivate.
Pleasingly, Temporal Rifts utterly epitomizes that raw atmosphere that should pervade the majority of doom albums. The production quality is perfect, setting the grating timbre of the guitar tone to Def Con Fuzz. The bass gets its fair share of the limelight, even underneath the thick power chords; and the drums maintain their tumult with their omnipresent cymbals bombarding the listener. The resulting sound is akin to a mix between The Sword and British doomsters Ossiyan, but the trio of Cities Of Mars still manage to carve a path all of their own – primarily thanks to their wailing, haunting melodies. Over the top of the textured strings, all three members provide crooning vocals which soar with a sense of both tragedy and aggression.
A big part of any doom metal album is the riff-writing – usually described easily and collectively as ‘Sabbath-esque’. But on Temporal Rifts the Swedes craft their brand of riff by mixing the typical, hulking blues with an eerie clean-picking that really enhances the atmosphere. This is most prevalent on the multi-faceted “Children Of The Red Sea” – where the spooky intro is contrasted beautifully with the massive 12th-fret work around the 3:55 mark. Then, right in the eye of the storm, we’re treated to a moment of incredibly unsettling clarity as Christoffer Noren’s deliberately tuneless guitar echoes in solitude. The maelstrom then returns in spectacular fashion as the band play around with the rhythms of a one-note riff. A true masterpiece and one of the best tracks of 2017. That being said, my award for ‘best riff’ has to go to the ending of “Envoy Of Murder” – that’s how crushing doom can be!
Each composition flows wonderfully into the other without the need for awkward and overly-complex interludes. Even the more intricate moments (the multi-rhythmic verses of “Caverns Alive” for example) are performed with a sense of fluidity that draws in listeners rather than alienates them. The result is a masterwork that takes the audience on a journey from the brutal opening of “Barriers”, through the layered musical landscapes, to the unearthly tribal drumming and sound effects that close the album on an almost theatrical cliffhanger. Temporal Rifts is a seriously impressive affair for a doom metal band’s debut LP, and will undoubtedly end up as one of my albums of 2017. Anyone who finds themselves nodding along, no matter how mildly, to a Candlemass or Pallbearer track – get Cities Of Mars on your agenda now. You won’t regret it.