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(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]