The time element is commonly used to move a storyline along. And often it is a ticking clock that serves this purpose well. Because music – by definition – moves along those ticks that transform it into some sort of mathematical equation.1) And that usually makes for a crisp and effective record overall.
The runtime of an album is another matter. Its length can easily turn into some sort of bloatware from hell. A gummy thing that is difficult to define because the term ‘too long’ is flexible. And it definitely is in the eyes of the beholder.
So, the massive 84 minutes of airtime that the fifth full-length piece Maere of Harakiri for the Sky boasts really held the RMR crew back. Because you see, we only have 24 hours in our day and a shitload of material to choose from. And it usually takes several spins to really get into the gist of things with a record, a few exceptions notwithstanding.
The band – yet another duo, by the way – is indeed known for its overly lengthy concoctions. So, the RMR deck crew kind of expected that HftS would hit us with a piece beyond the 60-minute limit. Yet, the overreach is somewhat blatant this time. Specifically when the record sports fillers like the questionable Placebo cover Song To Say Goodbye.
So, hells bells, the record kinda sat in our review pipe until the overly positive vibes for Maere wafted into our office suite. And this finally made us turn up the volume of this new album.
Of course, the fact that they add a few levels of oomph on top of what a slightly comparable Alcest usually produces also proved somewhat irresistible for us. And what do I find on Sing For The Damage We’ve Done? The latter’s Neige who fittingly furnishes some ethereal wailing. For some extended atmospherics, I guess.
But it is surely not the slightly annoying and by far too monotonous screams that carried the day. They’re way too near anything ‘core’, even if some called it anguished in nature. One could probably leave the lyrics away and would still end up with a reasonable instrumental record.
Yet, it is indeed this uncanny knack to write these cool songs that carried the day. With arrangements that often took our breath away, some very near to the Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal scene. Maere is positively stuffed with never-ending licks, riffs, and melodies that often seem strangely out of place in an Extreme Metal piece like this one.
And it is indeed this style mash of Post Rock or Metal, Post Black2), plain Black and Doom Metal (and more) that gave me pause more than once. This is what made us continue down that thorny road of that nightmarish soundscape the record tries to depict so hard.
And it is almost always a sign of good quality if a band pays no great heed to styles. This truly made us come back more than once to this particular well. So there, caught red-handed, right?
So – lo and behold – towards the end, Harakiri for the Sky turned the amps up some more. It is not that Maere becomes louder, but – in a way – meatier, more thoughtful, and mature. With Once Upon a Winter and Time is a Ghost as its centerpieces.
That said, it is – yet again – the uncanny lengthiness that renders those tracks prone for repetitions. Sometimes it appears that most are cut from the same stone, with a few variations to please the crowd. In other words, there’s an immense potential for consolidation. An opportunity to discard the bad apples and produce something neatly dense and crisp. That would have really blown that piece of metal out into space. And us with it.
To conclude, it would be unfair to call Maere bloatware. The record is proof of some pretty stunning songwriting chops. And – I daresay – a ton of ideas that bubble to the surface in most astonishing arrays. Yet, not all of those ideas really need to find a life on one single record. Indeed, this mountain of material would easily have filled at least two pieces of vinyl.
But nothing will take away from the perfectly executed and sometimes stunningly beautiful melodies, riffs, and solos. It is this facet of Maere that made us turn up the volume way too many times.
And that is a good thing.
Ed’s note: Not the same, but kinda in the same vein. Try some Ellende for a change.