Marianas Rest – Auer (Napalm Records)

Wednesday, 22nd March 2023
Rating: 9 / 10

Melodic death/doom is a subgenre that continues to expand and grow. With long term heavy hitters including Swallow the Sun, Draconian, Saturnus, Helevorn, and Enshine to the next wave of bands like Tribunal, Aeonian Sorrow, and Ocean of Grief, there are numerous options to satisfy a craving for the forlorn. Finnish sextet Marianas Rest have been gaining steam, with 2021’s Fata Morgana showcasing a maturing band who’s songwriting chops displayed continued refinement. Said album had difficult timing by releasing during the height of the pandemic, placing touring plans firmly on hold, but the band certainly wasn’t standing idle. Marianas Rest dove right back into writing mode and began putting together what would become Auer, the band’s fourth full-length (read more with our interview with vocalist Jaakko Mäntymaa here).

Having shown a panache to walk to their own beat, Marianas Rest has never felt like a copy of other established acts, but rather an ambitiously creative venture not focused on what has already been done. Fate Morgana exemplified that, with taking components of traditional death/doom, layered with gobs of melancholy and a score of varying influences that took the band to a new level of ingenuity. Auer takes further steps away from their contemporaries, resulting in a resounding affair that further establishes Marianas Rest’s impactful place in the scene.

An infectiously sorrowful melody is key to title track and album opener “Auer.” Crunchy rhythms and pain-ridden growls via vocalist Mäntymaa provide a perfect contrast to the overarching melody that’s continuously present in different forms throughout. Triple dog dare you to keep that solo out of your psyche; bearing a slick melancholy that reminds of the best moments Helevorn’s Compassion Forlorn. A segment of a heartbreaking interview with a diagnosed schizophrenic student from the 1960’s (source video here) introduces “Diseased”; a song that conveys heavy subject matter with an equally heavy sonic approach, overflowing with death metal inspired guitar rhythms and horror-inspired keyboard tracks. Overwhelming My Dying Bride vibes (more on that connection later) in the gigantic riff at the 3:12 point represents a definitive moment that adds a potent urgency.

Entries such as “Light Reveals Our Wounds” and “Fear Travels Fast” give off an Insomnium feel in the lead work and the overall mood, but with a distinctively murky touch that aids in standing independently from their fellow countrymates. Thoughts of a past favorite in Sentenced arise with “White Cradle” nostalgically resembling The Cold White Light era of eerie soundscapes. Lush leads and a long form clean vocal passage bring back that gothic metal tinge, culminating in an emotionally charged and insistent buildup that ends in delightful fervor. Gothic rock aesthetic meets harsh vocal stylings on “The Ground Still Burns,” while “The Hanging Blade” provides an epic prog meets doom behemoth featuring a minimalist ambient section that provides a different flavor of foreboding. The veritable Coup de grâce is “Sirens,” featuring My Dying Bride’s legendary vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe, who adds his distinct soul-enveloping vocal touch to a hauntingly gorgeous piece that is a fitting sign off.

Marianas Rest continue to hone and perfect their unbridled and eclectic formula, adding new variables that make their brew ever more fresh and delectable. Familiar elements such as spoken word vocal segments and weepy guitar leads are ever present, while added ambient pieces amongst potently organic deviations result in an album of the highest compositional quality. Auer bravely steers Marianas Rest into new realms while not abandoning any essential elements, leaving an outcome that is a significant leap forward that steadfastly brings the band to previously unreached heights.

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