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Dungeon Music - 90%

TheUnhinged, March 13th, 2011
Written based on this version: 2011, CD, Aesthetic Death

(Originally written 13 March, 2011. Updated 4 November, 2014)

Murkrat is a sinister recording project from Australia, its driving force and only songwriter being Mandy Andresen. She is also known for her work with The Slow Death, Crone, and formerly Lycanthia. On top of that, she has also had a few ambient projects of her own, and has also made album artwork for a handful of underground metal bands. I've taken a real interest in her work, upon the discovery of Murkrat's first album. I had become a big fan of this project and The Slow Death by the time this album emerged, and my adoration of Mandy's sick tunes and glorious voice has only grown deeper upon listening to it. Although I don't want my praise for this album to be based on gender alone, I do think it should be pointed out that the idea of extreme doom written entirely by a woman is going to spark a bit more interest than the plethora of one-man bedroom black and doom projects that have lingered in obscurity for the past twenty years.

Drudging the Mire is a very unique and modern take on doom metal and ambient. My best way of describing it would be if Dead Can Dance collaborated with Skepticism. The sluggish and morbid sounds of funeral doom are blended with lush pianos, hellish organs, ghostly ambient sections, and the haunting clean voice of Mandy. Her characteristic style of singing could be compared to Lisa Gerrard, yet sicker, more jaded, and much more malevolent. The guitar and bass set steady patterns for each song, yet mostly remain buried beneath several layers of atmospheric keys. The guitar melodies are incredibly sparse, consisting mostly of thick rhythms that carry on at the pace of a dying snail. The drums, performed by Neil Dyer of Innsmouth and Sacriphyx, are simplistic, yet blast and resonate loudly among the funeral paced muck. The music is anything but technical, yet odd up-tempo moments pop up throughout the album to disturb the repetitive flow and avoid growing redundant.

The five monoliths of doom on this album are lined with two menacing neoclassical pieces; overture 'Processional: Drudging the Mire' and epilogue 'Berceuse - Slow Immersion'. These are piano instrumentals, consumed in a swampy atmosphere and droning reverbed effects. 'World' makes for a brooding intermission; a purely ambient track with quiet synthesizers, cryptic vocals, and meditative clean guitars. The first half of the album consists of shorter, more simplistic tracks (I, Rodent and Faceless), while the second half is more drawn out, complicated, and has a bit more build up.

The lyrics are very diverse and eloquent, as if to be excerpts from bleak novels. Criticism of self-image, misogyny, religion, and politics seem to be big factors in the writing, as well as futuristic and post-apocalyptic imagery of a world that is slowly self-destructing. The artwork is equally as blasphemous, and gives a very accurate visual representation of the music that lies beyond the unnerving front cover. In a way, I am reminded of My Dying Bride's Turn Loose the Swans in how well the music matches the visual art.

The album, as a whole, is very rough around the edges and swells with a warm and dank sound quality that one would typically expect from a drone album. It's a big step-up from the thinner and more amateur demo production that plagued the first album. What will probably turn people off is the guitar tone. It's not very heavy, and as I said before, it lingers in the background for the most part. It's been theorized that the guitars here are synthesized, or produced by a distorted organ, and that doesn't seem far-fetched. To me, this isn't that big of an issue seeing as how it is not guitar-led music, but those looking firmly for something CRUSHING may be bothered by that.

Altogether, Drudging the Mire is an original and special album in the realm of doom metal. It lies somewhere amidst the likes of Bloody Panda, Virgin Black, and the earliest albums of Funeral, with that extra dose of ambient and darkwave to push the boundaries of the extreme and ethereal. Though Murkrat seems to be on ice for now, I can only hope Mandy returns to it someday soon to pursue another ghastly and sullen masterpiece such as this one.