Not that there’s much competition in my recent listens, but Chile’s Mar de Grises (“Ocean Of Grief”) is the best prog/doom/post-metal hybrid I’ve heard lately. Seriously. I know that’s simultaneously big words and a laughably ridiculous claim, but across its hour-long running time, Draining The Waterheart is a truly beautiful and encapsulating listen, ebbing and flowing. I would go so far as to say that it’s easily one of the better releases I’ve run across in my six months here, which is especially noteworthy since this is a band that has, to my knowledge, lacked much in the way of acclaim thusfar.
Clearly, based on the plodding sense of melancholy that pervades every note of this, Mar de Grises is a doom metal band. This is played at an alternately slow or midtempo pace, but it’s more generally epic than bleak, more romantically depressive like a My Dying Bride than it is crushingly disheartening and desperate funeral doom. (MdG does avoid MDB‘s more gothic tendencies.) But there’s more here than just doom, as there’s also an Opeth-like sensibility. Draining The Waterheart is a cascading blend of chiming electric guitars, crashing distorted chords, anguished growled vocals and plaintive cleans, all drawn out across lengthy songs that may be more accurately described as movements or pieces of the one collective whole. The album works more as a long composition than it does when broken up as individual songs, although any one moment taken out of context is still representative of the album. There’s a free-form structure to this—a cinematic post-metal momentum—that makes it an absorbing listen, an evocative experience that builds upon itself and takes the faithful listener through a floating world of beauty and sadness. Parts of Waterheart possess such an expansive beauty that, in my more generous moments, I’m tempted to compare bits of it to Enslaved’s impeccable canon, and I understand fully what big words those are, so perhaps I won’t mention it just to avoid hearing about it later.
With only one of these eight songs below six minutes, and most in the eight-to-thirteen-minute range, Mar de Grises has created a bit of a monster, and the album’s intensive length and depth make it a difficult casual listen, I’ll admit. Also, I haven’t the slightest idea what the lyrics are about, especially with song titles like “Wooden Woodpecker Conversion” and “Deep-Seeded Hope Avant-Garde,” both of which I’m sort of hoping are Spanish euphemisms that just got lost in translation from the native tongue. (Also, the album title sounds like a polite euphemism for urinating.) Regardless, the vocals are sparse and delivered in an alternating death vs. clean croon, again a la Opeth, and even at their cleanest, they’re just another part of the whole and not a particular focal point. Ultimately, this one’s about the atmosphere, so sit back, crank it up, drink some beer/wine/whatever, and enjoy a pretty kick-ass record from a band that I’d overlooked but certainly shall overlook no more.