Mars Era - Dharmanaut - (6/10)
Published on March 12, 2017
Taking a leap into the unknown almost always has its advantages: you find bands you would never have heard of and too often they are in need of wider attention. This goes the same for labels too and Italy’s Argonauta Records is home to a plethora of bands in need of a platform from which the people can hear what they have to say. One such act is Florence quartet Mars Era, a band caught in a power struggle between the sun-blessed touches of stoner rock and the destructive wallop of the ‘90s alternative metal wave. Colliding at full speed, the result of this impact gives birth to Dharmanaut, complete with the cacophonous production and mixing one would expect from such a devastating feud.
Dharmanaut is the tale of two characters – the representations of Yin and Yang – in a constant dialogue with each other and the music certainly reflects this. As the album progresses the balance shifts from abrasive Tool-inflected hooks to tricked-out Kyuss textures and back again; the paradigm shifts throughout shatter perceptions and negate definitions of music. Whilst not exactly being anything new, Mars Era have enough clout behind them to mould their influences into a dynamic cluster of sonic expressions worthy enough to call their own. Few bands have the audacity to stand outside their genre fields (instead strive to become the very best), but these guys have taken the bold step to doing something against the grain. For the most part this pays off: though slightly on the cringe-worthy side, nine minute opus ‘The Leap’ is an decent example of how Mars Era choose to fuse the sounds together, opening with swathes of funk playing under the gliding wings of a desert eagle, the track goes through a constant metamorphosis until it takes its proverbial leap into glistening aboriginal weirdness.
Though not inherently a bad thing, it is this switching and changing around that comes across as off-putting for newcomers – you are not sure whether they are coming or going so to speak. But that may be where the charm of the album lies: they are competent musicians who know how to compose freakishly progressive tunes; from the screeching belter of ‘Enemy Was A Friend Of Mine’ to the barrage of overproduced riffs and cliché breakdown of ‘Revolution’ which finishes noisily yet triumphantly, Mars Era play the best parts of their influences and shove them into a melting pot, almost seemingly to toy with their listeners’ heads. The problem, however, is the mixing and production suffers and becomes messy from time to time of which ‘Emprisoned’ is a good example. At times it becomes a tad unlistenable.
The highlights of Dharmanaut are those final three tracks, where the band decides to go full desert rock. The craziness of the rhythmic grooves underpinning ‘Red Eclipse’ gives way into the face-melting power of ‘Licancubar’ that swells toward the ends of the earth. ‘Desolate Wasteland’ is exactly what the title suggests but it is a closer that brings the album back to the beginning, the best example of Kyuss-meets-Tool they could muster. Always save the best till last, right?
The platform Mars Era currently stands on may be small, but their boldness goes a long way to producing a sound that is bigger than themselves. Though noisy and far-out, it is by no means confused as to what it is but is it enough to make them stand out amongst their peers? The music is decent enough but runs the risk of being drowned out by bolder acts out there. That is not to say they don’t deserve to be heard by a larger audience, it’s simply that Dharmanaut is not enough to make a large enough splash in the lake of other great music out there. A good effort indeed, just sadly not a very memorable one.