MARA – Rök
Mara hail from the frostbitten shores of Sweden and dabble in aggressive pagan black metal with a strong presence of rawness to it that harkens back to the early-to-mid 90s. In addition, there a numerous passages that are slightly more earthy and pagan-like to be found on the disc too. Musically, these dudes move back and forth between relatively straightforward (and slightly linear) riffs and melodies on the one side and then deeply dissonant and downright bleak parts on the other that will leave you feeling terrible about yourself and the world around you. If I had to name-drop a few bands and outfits who come to mind when listening to “RÖK”, I suppose the first ones would be Gorgoroth and Beastcraft (when Mara are at their most catchy and accessible, mind you) and Hell Militia (when they are at their most chaotic and edgy). Slow and morose sections as well as mellow ones are also scattered throughout the affair, and if nothing else, Mara certainly know how to add a bit of light and shade to their compositions so as not to make them as predictable or one-dimensional as those by many other similar acts and artists out there often tend to to. However, the production is not altogether that exciting in terms of dynamics and does not really add as much as it could have done to the atmosphere and feel of the album. It comes across as slightly flat in places whereas a really thick and organic sound would have suited the blackened song material much better in the lame opinion of yours truly. “RÖK” is at its best when it is raging like a wild storm and sounding borderline unhinged (e.g. the title track) whereas it often loses its momentum when it veers off into epic-sounding territory (as exemplified by “Eitr” and “Burial Mound” – both of which are more than eight minutes long). Perhaps the most accomplished and musically rewarding cut is the opening track “Blood Hound” due to its morose aura and gloomy melodies as well as the way in which intensifies over time.
Ultimately, “RÖK” is not the most exciting or memorable black metal release that I have come across this year, and even though it certainly has its moments and merits and whatnot, I doubt that this is one of those outputs that I will keep returning to over time. Again, there are some good and interesting ideas present on the cursed thing, but it never truly succeeds in transporting me to other dimensions or realms. It is simply not as evocative and sinister as it could have been. Having said that, I am looking forward to their next release and to see what the future holds for these guys as there is potential aplenty to be found here.