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Mara > RÖK > Reviews > Edmund Sackbauer
Mara - RÖK

Mara - RÖK - 85%

Edmund Sackbauer, July 27th, 2023
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Immortal Frost Productions (Limited edition)

Mara is more or less a solo project by a Swedish lad going by the name Vindsval and “RÖK” is the third full length which he realized with the help of some other bad guys. As with most albums of this type, the focus is on the riffs and the mood created. The riffs are okay and throw around heaps of hard-hitting black metal nostalgia, especially at the beginning (this almost sounds like some lost tapes from Scandinavia in the 90s) and try to be a bit more unusual in the second half of the album (see “Eitr” as an example). The clear strength of Vindsval and his songwriting skills, however, lies in the classic, driving passages. This is not a reinvention of the wheel, but what is offered here is very well done in terms of craftsmanship and offers almost 36 minutes of good entertainment.

The songs here boil with energy, the vocals are maniacal in their ferocity and the music is exploding from the speakers in traditional fashion. In the end this is what music like the one delivered here is all about, reproducing this special kind of feeling black metal is able to do like no other genre. The riffs soar and surge with the lead guitar offering some melodic themes to give each song its own identity. Mara keep switching within different tempo ranges without things ever getting chaotic, often slowing things down in the middle of a song before upping the speed a bit again. They have a nice feeling for mid-tempo grooves, often used as counterpart to the sometimes slightly melancholic lead harmonies.

One aspect I really like about Mara and their way to craft black metal is this kind of melodic factor in the music, but not so much at the surface and overly hooky, more subtly woven into the overall sound and on top of the raw chords and rhythms. There are some slower pieces where the bleak guitar sound helps creating an eerie and frosty atmosphere, with some of the harmonies mirroring deeply melancholic feelings. Beside the icy guitar harmonies and the raw and angry vocals it is the songwriting and the overall flow which makes this record such an enjoyable experience. The scalding vocal hostility by Vindsval himself is indeed cold and cruel, and the rapidly vibrating riffs consist of freakish pulsations and seething swarms of menace, while a forlorn yet grand through-line of melody rises and falls within each of the songs.

The production is organic and harsh without coming across as being too raw. Mara play a form of black metal that makes me recall past glories with a nostalgic fondness and everybody looking for a trip to the genre’s roots (but presented with better production values) should not sleep on “RÖK” and give it a try. On their next release “Loka Maer” the production has been further refined, but here the basic and stripped-back mix fits the compositions pretty well. Once again a great find by the ever reliable Immortal Frost Productions crew.