To the uninitiated environmentalism and metal may not seem like the most natural bedfellows but they have a surprisingly long history together. From Testament’s ‘Greenhouse Effect’ and Atheist’s ‘Mother Man’ to Gojira and Wolves in the Throne Room, metal bands have often pushed back against the destruction of the natural world which so inspires them. Providence, RI noise metal band Mar now seem set to join those bands on the front line.
With a sound that melds the heaviness of doom, the discord of noise rock and the rolling ambience of shoegaze, Mar have created a unique immersive sound that conjures vast soundscapes of the imagination, and on Everything is Alive that soundscape is a forest on fire.
This is a difficult album to discuss in terms of tracks, as it’s clearly been written to listen to as a whole piece. Opening with the monolithic slow build of ‘Rewild’ the gnarly two-piece set out their store with a grim howl of a vocal and plodding riff before fading down and again and moving into the eerie ‘We Thought We Were Gods’. That track opens with a gentle acoustic guitar line and features a sample from From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brothers’ Warning, a 90’s documentary about the plight of the indigenous Kogi people of South America. ‘Veins’ features a cleaner vocal from singer Kay Belardinelli as they riff in a loose, droning style similar to My Bloody Valentine. The softness of this, and the following instrumental ‘Solitude’, is counterpointed by the violence the following piece ‘A Bitch in Grief’ a blast of rage that lasts barely over a minute, and feels oddly like slowed down grindcore. The brevity of the pieces may put some listeners off, yet it feels perfectly fitting for this band whose writing has an immediacy which stops them wringing a good idea dry. The longest piece on the album ‘Burn’ brings to mind bands like Harvey Milk and Iceburn, with touches of black metal heard in the background. The spectre of psychedelia and alt-rock looms over the album, with semi-ballad ‘Radiant’ bringing to mind the best of the mid 90’s droners.
Despite the occasional ambience of its textures, Everything is Alive is not in any way background music, instead it requires your full attention. Belardinelli’s lyrics are emotional and evocative, and the subtlety of the music definitely benefits from close, repeated listens. There is an overarching sadness to this record that I think will speak to a lot of people’s climate anxiety and all this points to Mar definitely being a band to watch.
Everything is Alive is out now via Bandcamp and can be ordered here.
Words: Dan Cadwallader