Progressive Doom/Death Metal is definitely not one of the easiest to swallow genres and while it can be ultimately rewarding, it unfortunately also has the potential to indefinitely frustrate the reviewer. Chilean MAR DE GRISES are a prime example for this on their second album “Draining The Waterheart”, which I had been looking forward to a lot, given that I had thoroughly enjoyed their previous effort “The Tatterdemalion Express” back in 2004.
Despite not necessarily being very different from the debut, it took me halfway until forever to actually find my way into this album, which time and time again refused to open up and was to my mind what essentially a brick wall would be for a mosquito, frustrating me more and more with every repeated listen. So then I let it sit for a while, not even thinking about it or trying to listen to it. And then one day it suddenly clicked. I put the CD in, put on the headphones and would you believe it, it worked, the melancholia began to flow and words began to form in my mind.
So when I say that MAR DE GRISES (SEA OF GREY or OCEAN OF GRIEF) are not easy listening music or catchy Doom, it can be a vast understatement, depending on the mood you are in. While not necessarily being openly super-progressive or abstract, there is something in the compositions that bears this underlying complexity that may very well boggle your mind, if you are not ready for it, but once you find that narrow path into the forest that is “The Draining Waterheart”, you will find amazing musicianship and equally progressive and intense passages that are woven together by pure melancholia and evokes images of drab, grey clouds hanging low over a desolate landscape that will leave you disoriented, bleak and hopeless, which I guess is exactly the state the Chileans want you in once they’re done with you.
Good words to describe MAR DE GRISES are: Atmosphere, intensity, hopelessness, but at the same time also beauty (if you listen to “Kilómetros De Nada”, you will know what I am talking about) and that poses the challenge and promise of this album, the countless shades of grey between the black and white (befitting their name) that diffuse the light until you feel that you are sinking into the swirling mass of grey.
It is almost impossible to really point out single tracks, because depending on when you listen to it, sometimes this track sticks to your mind, sometimes that other one touches you, maybe also because of some of the effects they add to the songs to create an almost soundtrack-like feeling (“Fantasia”), creating something big, something that is hard to impossible to put into words, a bit like (newer) ANATHEMA meet MY DYING BRIDE meet OPETH meet something intangible, different…
So yes, it will take time and effort to get into this, but once you manage, you will be rewarded with a big album that is very deep and intense and actually does have a certain catchiness to it, you just have to find it. This is on the narrow ledge between genius and insanity…
(Online October 15, 2008)