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Raw, Emotional, Dynamic - 98%

GMThomas, November 15th, 2009

"The Tatterdemalion Express" is one of the most powerful, organic, and raw debut albums I have ever heard, while remaining solid and consistent. One of the best things about debut albums is they are essentially the band in its most organic and emotional forms - before professionalism, streamlined compositions, and maturity cast a shadow over the powerful outpourings of the band's creative desires. Because of this, many bands stumble and provide for an error-prone, difficult listening experience, but Mar de Grises gratuitously provide an album that drips with emotion while retaining consistency, excellent songwriting, and a very well-developed overlying theme.

Perhaps the strongest element of the album, and what consistently provides the core of the music, is Marcelo R.'s vocal and keyboard work. The vocals range from traditional, deep death growling to ragged, tortured wailing. Beleaguered, pained, harsh whispering is also frequently used, along with reasonable clean vocals. Although the singing is nothing fantastic, it fits in well, with Marcelo's fatigued and strained voice not soaring above the music - but instead rooted firmly in the desolate atmosphere of it. The keyboard work he provides is also fantastic, and the solo piano piece in the middle of the album is testament to how much he adds to the overall sound of the album, even though most of the keyboard work is generally atmospheric or otherwise buried behind the dark thunder of the guitars. I cannot comment on the lyrics as half of them are in Spanish and the English half are fairly hard to decipher, although some lines and stanzas really stand out.

The guitar and bass work is excellent. Though not incredibly technical, the riffing and leads are always interesting and fluid, and the bass is solid and quite audible, providing a good backdrop. The drumming is also very good, featuring fast double-bass runs and fairly technical beats. I have a sore spot with the loudness of the drums during the soft parts of some songs, and many of the fills are simply just average.

The album has a very muddy sound to it, with all the instruments being sonically quite huge. In particular, the drums are loud and punchy, the snare and toms heavily reverbed. The overall sound is a barrage of instruments and melodies weaving out of each other, surrounding the listener from every direction. The vocals are mixed very well, not overpowering but particularly ear-piercing at key points.

The overall composition is what makes this album the masterpiece it is. Melodies weave in and out, riffs are hardly repeated, but the songs retain their overall theme, even through numerous sections of heavy and clean. One of the best examples of the excellent songwriting on this album is "To See Saturn Fall" which goes from standard vocal and guitar fare to a complete breakdown of all the instruments (and not the shitty *core kind, mind you), which is then picked back up, and the band smashes you in the face with one fucking amazing two-minute instrumental outro. The overall originality, brilliance, and fluidness of this song easily makes it one of the greatest songs I have ever heard. "To See Saturn Fall" is also the emotional high point of the album. Every other song is deeply depressive, dark, and suffering. From the painful, abrupt wails on "...El Otro" to the beautiful piano melodies on "Self Portrait No. 1," the music does little do dig itself out of a deep, cold hole of emptiness and sadness. It manages to maintain such a dark theme, even through barrages of fast riffing, double-bass runs, and quick-moving melodies, making the listening experience dynamic and interesting, with hardly any droning. However, a few songs, such as "Storm" are more standard-fare for doom metal in terms of speed, featuring slow clean build ups to labored, crushing riffs.

Overall, this album is an incredibly depressing journey, filled with emotion, and providing an incredibly interesting listening experience and presenting a perfect blend of rawness with solid songwriting.

The Tatterdemalion Express - 80%

Epilogue, April 24th, 2008

Extreme is a word meaning exceeding bounds, pushing farther into new territory, running away from the plain and ordinary. Extreme bands might be classified as fast, faster, or the fastest, the one who can blast beat at 365 BPM with roaring, 8 layer vocals. Extreme is a great many a things to a great many people. For Mar de Grises, extreme music means being dense and dramatic, with full on intensity and brutality, to being lonesome and exiled, sounding thin and dry (or lush and beautiful) in a matter of seconds. Hailing from Santiago, Chile, Mar de Grises (meaning Sea of Grey) was formed at the turn of the millennia, creating Death Doom to the likes of old Anathema or My Dying Bride. This is their first album, The Tatterdemalion Express, released four years after Mar De Grises formation.

Vocals are a very important aspect of the album, and vocals does this album deliver. And while this is his first album, Marcelo Rodr�*guez, the bands then-vocalist, pulls off some deep and experienced growls throughout the album. As if he was doing it since he was a wee lad, Marcelo sounds like a deeper, bigger Mikael Akerfeldt, long and droning howls full of mixed expressions from melancholy to hate, converged at the same time. Very far from meager and weak. At the other end of the line is Rodriguezs' clean vocals. Dry is what one might immediatley concieve while listening, that and frail, and while that is true for most of his clean usage, he does have a little range. Demeaning and gloomy (especially on Recklessness), he portrays an image of a raspy-voiced, skinny twenty something on his way to end a little, meaningless life. Yet here we also have a bit of real, full singing, on Be Welcome Oh Hideous Hell, a style all his own. It has a sound reminisce if Agalloch were mixed with a side of Alcest, yet even that is a hideous description and does Marcelo no justice. And all three of these styles add up to make the detached, broken, yet unrelenting and hard-hitting impressive voice of The Tatterdemalion Express.

Drums are the framework of most songs and albums, and Mar De Grises have some. While the parts are written to perfection, with fills and patterns to accent galore, it is the way they are played that makes me unhappy. It seems Alejandro Arce, who is on the throne, has only one volume: loud. Absolutley fine with the heavy parts, as you would be drowned out, but on soft interludes, it's distracting and doesn't flow well at all with the paticular part. Like on Storm, my would-be favorite track. When the vocalist is doing his soft, raspy, Rudy Ratzinger impersonation, Arce shatters my ears with hard-hitting madness that doesn't need to be. And the beginning to Onirica has the exact same problem, it kills the part, the mood, and to some extent, the song. But aside form the hitting to hard, the drums have enough strut to make me proud, with reverberance and clarity being outstanding (as well as the entire production work), adding to the extention of long notes the album seeks to append.

Handled by Sergio Alvarez and Rodrigo Morris, the guitars have a pounding, edgy, and full tone, making the album massive and deep. Riffs are heavy in both variation and sound, and although there seems to be traces of deja-vu here and there, it doesn't take away anything important from Mar De Grises first effort. And of course with an album as two-sided as this, along with the crushing, somewhat bassy distortion of the six stringed insturments, there is also clean tones. Or tone, I should say, because the clean tones really are pure, a polar oppisite from its counterpart, and all sound the same. Though far from being a let-down, as there are exceptions on this album (interlude on Be Welcome Oh Hideous Hell, for one), with a little chorus or reverb on some, and because Mar De Grises doesn't need that many channels to be great. And although nothing too technical is found here (who would expect it, anyways?), the strung out, long snarls of low tuned power chords are enough to accomidate for that and more. Even melodies are brought upon us because of the guitars, in nearly every song, the exception being Self Portrait No. 1, a purely piano track.

And on that note, keyboards, one of the most important insturments on the album, is next. What makes Mar De Grises so great is the sounds, melodies, and overall atmosphere that the keyboards bring. Some make the opinion that I'm wrong because the keyboards don't show up as much as anything else on the album, the least, in fact. And while that is perfectly true, they do appear enough on the album to make it what it is, a soundscape of iconic and mindful songs, songs that are defined and rich because of various, gloomy, downtrodden sounds and melodies. Which only leaves me with one complaint: not prominent enough. But, like the guitars with the technicality, the presence alone make up for the hinder. Beneath everything that makes a standard Metal band, the keyboards are the final, absolute layer that make The Tatterdemalion Express so different.

And here we have it; Mar De Grises first attempt at pleasing the Metal universe. Which indeed they do, with all the epic songwriting, insturments and whatnot. And despite the drawbacks that The Tatterdemalion Express has, like the loud drums and somewhat simple guitars, the goods vastly outweigh the band, a hundredfold. Thus if you love, like, or are even intrested in Death Doom, you need this album, second after only the immediate classics. Because with an album as strong, inveterate and lasting as this, you'll need something to fall back on over and over again after listening to magnum opuses.

Breathtaking! - 100%

grimdoom, October 20th, 2007

Atmospheric, progressive, Funeral-Doomdeath Metal is the best way to describe the enigma that is Mar De Grises. If that description sounds incredibly odd, that’s because this band is, but in a beautiful, passionate and oppressive way.

The production is good; the song writing is original and the mood is intense. The guitars are heavy, but in a more atmospheric way. They go from distorted to clean periodically but always lead the way. The bass and drums complement the guitars and the keyboards, never really doing anything too noteworthy.

The keyboards are understated, yet always clear. The vocals fit the music well and are mostly Death with a few cleaner moments.

Over all, the cohesion of the music is beyond words. The music goes from huge, grandiose arrangements full of emotion and passion to near silent passages where there is only a slight rumbling. There is a very ethereal quality to this band and their sound. This is incredibly classy music.

This album is one that forces you to sit and down and listen to the whole thing at once. The songs work better this way; in saying that, this is in no way a concept album but the way its written simply draws you in.

This is a band that you simply need to hear to believe, and understand for that matter. This is by far one of the best, if not the best album of 2004.

good and quite original sounding doom/death metal - 80%

robert_sun, March 2nd, 2006

This Chilean band Mar De Grises played original sounding doom/death metal on their first material - Demo 2002 - and now here's the debut album and my opinion is that they reached a higher musical level on this CD. Their music has evidently influences from the early 90’s doom/death metal scene, the slow rolling riffs and sullen atmospheres reminds me of the early period of Anathema and My Dying Bride, but at the same time their music also differs a lot from the above mentioned bands’ direction. They have lots of other elements besides the regular slow doom riffs, their repertoire also includes Pink Floyd-ish atmospheric passages, discordant riffs and harmonies and even influences from classical music or 70’s progressive rock bands. A few murky/freaky parts reminded me of In The Woods’ last two albums and the track Be welcome oh hideous comes with an Opeth/Voivod-like disharmonic riffage. Many bands are trying to put together themes of great variety these days, and while most of them are failing in doing that, I think Mar De Grises has done a good job in combining their influences. You can find here influences of funeral doom, doom/death, ambient, post-rock, prog-rock, classical music, electro etc, but still my final impression is that in Mar De Grises’ music these styles are doing well abreast and this a very good point for the band. In the future they should work a little bit on the melodic vocals, but anyway this is a really nice material for a debut album.

(In)tense! - 100%

yentass, March 22nd, 2005

I've ascended to Heaven and touched Ultimate Beauty. Yes, dear readers, I believe that, after a long journey, I've found The One Perfect Album, that is must be the most fascinating, addictive and well-crafted doom metal release in the genre's history (pardon the hyperbole).

Mar de Grises are by no means your regular doom metal band that you can label one way or the other. Not at all - actually, one of the most brilliant aspects about Mar de Grises is that they seem to "borrow" some elements from several doom metal subgenres and blend them into something that rises against the very same subgenres: this album involves a certain amount of ambience in it, yet you'd never approach to it as to atmospheric doom release; It has it's heavy parts yet you'd never find yourself headbanging to it as you would do when listening to some death/doom piece; And it certainly into experimentalism, yet is aeons far from even resembling the utter ugliness that is experimental doom. This is something new. I label it "True Chilian Romantic Math-Doom Metal" (another representative of this "genre" are Poema Arcanus).

The lyrics on "Tatterdemalion..." deal mostly with romantic subjects, yet their fractured structure (and the fact some of them are in Spanish) makes them a bit hard to comprehend, but on the other hand they reflect perfectly the romanticism and the "fragmented" form of the music, so I don't complain. The music, however, is what makes this album as great as it is. It's highly fascinating, unexpected and non-traditional, and very sophisticated in structure - but not in a way that could possibly ruin the music for the common listener due to lack of knowledge, or all the other things that Dream Theater fans are likely to accuse you for lacking. The common formula on "Tatterdemalion..." consist of progressive and polythematic song structure - think Cephalic Carnage's "Halls of Amenti" (where, like on "The Tatter...", you have multiple themes that crossfade one into another), or if you like - these "Kinder Surprise" eggs: there's the wrap, and when you get rid of it there is the chocolate egg that has the plastic egg in it, and the plastic egg bears the "surprise" in it, and most of the time it comes with stickers to decorate the "surprise"... In other words - the music is constantly changing and altering, and one remains clueless as of the way the music is about to turn out (unless you've already "tasted" the "egg") - a fact that drains the listener deep into it and keeps him focused throughout the entire album, indulging on every sound and always begging for more. And let's not forget these excellent tension build-ups (that often appear as these "hanger" passages, when everything disappears and only the keyboards and the clean guitar are playing on the very edge of audibility, at times accompanied by some calm drumming and soothing vocals), that sometimes get a whole lengthy and independent theme all to themselves, and that are essential to bridge between the main themes. Another thing they use that emphasises the surprise factor is the numerous scale transpositions - not only throughout the song, but even throughout a single riff sequence in a given song (best example: "El Otro", between the 10:18 and 10:40 marks); frequent changes of time signatures also appear, yet within the constrains of the more traditional time signatures like 4/4, 3/4 or 6/8, only to keep the music on the verge of complexity without crossing the thick line towards being overly technical. After all, they have a romantic atmosphere to maintain.

The most fascinating factor about the music is that it is enjoyable as a whole, as a monolithic single-celled body called Music (with a capital "M"), and not as a sum of it's components - the musicians. This one is by no means and exhibition of the technical abilities of the players, quite the contrary: Apart from the keyboardist (who's got a beautiful solo song all to himself named "Self Portrait no.1"), the musicians in Mar de Grises have no intentions to flash out with their individual abilities - no memorable guitar leads here, neither breathtaking drumming parts, and the vocalist, while having a nice soothing clean voice and a decent growl, is still miles far from, say, his fellow countymate Claudio Carrasco (the vocalist of Poema Arcanus mentioned above). And here lies the Mar de Grises' spark - the ability to make brilliant music without showing off with some overwhelming technique of playing, a thing that's absolutely remarkable. And I didn't mention how awesome and clear production of the album is, did I?

Overall: A must have, no argues. Go get it by any means if you're into quality and interesting music, that keeps intriguing even after weeks of intensive listening and still remains uncatchy - in the sense you'll want to listen to it more and more, and that is surely to give you the creeps.

[Favorite bits - all, special acknowledgement is deserved for El Otro and Self Portrait no.1]