Hey, it’s been a minute since we expressed our disdain with most current post-metal, so, allow me: most post-metal is pretty dull. I mean, we get it: you ebb, you flow, it’s dramatic, we’re watching a movie behind our eyelids, etc. But your albums are way too long and everything is way too predictable. What we crave is post-metal that does things differently, and that doesn’t wear out its welcome.
The only thing that Toronto’s Mare ever released was this five-song EP from 2004, and it does what post-metal and experimental sludge should. Man, is this ever a record that deserves to be remembered (and it’s not too late: you can get a digital copy right here). Released on the mighty Hydra Head Records, Mare is, truly, a journey through all sorts of sonic pleasures, the band using sludge and post-metal as starting points only to go where no one had dared to go up to that point… and still hasn’t.
I dig that there are connections with other great, forward-thinking bands here (The End, Circle Takes the Square) but even mentioning other groups sells Mare short. This EP stands alone as a fantastic, compelling, moving document to a band truly following their muse.
“Anisette” starts things off, and this song is absolutely huge: I can think of no other track that encapsulates everything interesting and progressive about Hydra Head Records at this point in time. From angular sludge to post-metal atmosphere to an incredible melodic singing part, this song feels like it’s an incredible 20-minute epic packed into one 4:40 burst of glory. And when the drums first kick in at 0:44? Beautiful.
“They Sent You” starts off weird and then gets weirder, the band taking things slow and quiet and… yeah, just weird for the first part of the track, sounding more like a spiritual journey than rock music, and then going into an absolutely classic forward-momentum groove march at 1:24 (I can’t get enough of that moment when the drums start and the procession begins), a post-metal part, then an abrupt left turn around 4:18 before delivering the huge sludge ending, those jarring, dissonant, Mare chords driving things along, ensuring this sounds like no one else, crazed scream, two second jazzy part, over. Okay, then. Incredible song.
Then it’s on to “Tropics,” a shorter song that suddenly sounds like we’re in the lounge bar with gramps, Spanish bullfighting velvetries draped around us, cigarette smoke suffocating. The brushes are making love to the snare, but there’s doomy riffs snaking around behind the bar. Gramps isn’t so innocent after all.
“Palaces” showcases more of that crazed vocal screeching that Mare utilized (to see them live was pretty amazing), then goes into a Dillinger-ish quiet/tech part, which evolves into complete noise improvisation; with one strum of a guitar, the band comes crashing back in together with an Isis heaviness. It all makes you think this band could have been the next great Relapse shining star had things not quietly imploded after this EP.
That song flows directly into closer “Sun for Miles,” which finds the band again abruptly dropping the instruments and going into some vocal-only spiritual exploration that, man… you just don’t hear this done on metal records too often. And when you do, it sounds forced or hokey. The alarming thing about Mare is that nothing on this EP sounds forced or hokey. “Sun for Miles” sounds like a choir of angels for its first three minutes, until it sounds like hell on Earth for its final minute of agonizingly heavy atmospheric sludge.
And then, that’s it, it’s over and done. 24 minutes and 40 seconds of one of the most unique, fascinating, and mind-expanding pieces of post-metal ever recorded, and the band—more or less, although it appears they’ve reunited as a duo—just dropped off our radars. But sometimes a band shines so bright it just explodes, and sometimes that only adds to the mystery and wonder of it all.