Monday, January 6, 2020

Full Length Review: MARA "RÖK" (Immortal Frost Productions) by Dave Wolff

Band: Mara
Location: Gävleborgs län
Country: Sweden
Genre: Pagan black metal
Full length: RÖK
Format: CD (limited to 1000 copies), digital
Release date: November 29, 2019
Mara is a one-man black metal project from the darkest, coldest depths of Sweden that came along exactly when it was most needed. In 2020 there haven’t been enough ancient crypts opened, and there is still more to reveal from long-forgotten times. Vindsval became the creative force of this project after a lengthy and frustrating search for musicians on similar wavelengths. He finally decided to abandon his search and went solo, which is to be expected from a subgenre that is so fiercely individualistic. Picking up instruments and learning from scratch how to express his personal vision, he at first expected to record just one limited edition demo. Released in 2010, ‘Dark Forces’ was extremely raw and primitive, but Vindsval was since inspired to continue as he recorded a second demo and three full lengths. Listening to his latest full length ‘RÖK’ which was released last November, I see all the advancements made in recording technology since 1993/94 can be beneficial for Vindsval’s desired sound if done appropriately. Adding enough layers, rawness and atmosphere creates something that resonates in your soul and shows the clear importance of achieving it in a professional or home studio. ‘RÖK’ is emotive to such an extent that comes across as ghastly, harrowing and near unspeakable. You perceive this so intensely it’s almost dehumanizing, which shows how well Vindsval captures the essence of Scandinavian black metal as bands like Mayhem, Abruptum gave us. From the solitary, desolate introduction and the following technical precision of “Bloodbound” Vindsval’s songwriting and delivery commands your attention. This album bristles with ire and contempt, with biting guitars, primal drumming, tortured vocals, a profound wall of sound and stunning visuals comparable to the (anti) heroic overtones of Bathory’s “Blood Fire Death” and the coarse barbarism of Marduk’s “Heaven Shall Burn When We Are Gathered.” As I said earlier, Vindsval has an uncanny way of making the listener fully feel and experience his pagan visions through his work. To elaborate on this point, his promotional video for the title cut is a welcome visual interpretation of what he’s conveying here. At first it appears to be a typical sacrificial ritual in an isolated forest, but as you watch you’ll see other happenings unfolding before your eyes. The video is generally ambiguous as to whether said ritual is actually happening or if it’s all in the mind of the artiste presenting us with this imagery. In the end it’s for you to decide. Recommended reading is an interview Vindsval did for The Metal Gamer Blog where he explains his concept and the making of this album and video. -Dave Wolff

Vindsval: All vocals and instruments

Track list:
1. Bloodbound
2. RÖK
3. The Path
4. Eitr
5. Burial Mound

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