If people like ourselves confess our love of metal to a member of the general public, the common reaction is sneers and disgust. “I can’t listen to that stuff!” they’ll say. “It sounds so, like, ugly and stuff!” In my experience, there are two paths one can take when confronted with such unpleasant bigotry (besides the best option, which is ending the conversation). I can try to change their minds by playing the more beautiful side of the genre for them, such as the gentlest of progressive metal. I could also dig my heels in, say: “Fuck yeah it sounds ugly, just like your face!”1 and blast said face full of dissonant death metal. In the latter scenario, Maere is a feasible candidate. Ingurgitating Oblivion ex-members making up the bulk of their line-up, Maere’s debut, I promises a veritable feast of dark and ugly death. If they can live up to their former band’s stellar reputation…
Indeed they can, and they do. I is full of torrential riffs, tight drumming and creepy, harrowing textures. In Malte Schön the band has found a strong growler with a lot of presence in the music, able to use different tones of distortion as the music requires. Impressively, the band always manages to keep the music feeling vital and alive, even as tempos regularly dip into doom territory. I refer back to the texturing as an explanation for this feat, as there is always another layer using the dissonance to impound an organic dread that runs through the music like a fetid thread. It’s an impressive display of songwriting and shows the experience of Maere’s members, though their tight performance for a band less than 3 years old is absolutely commendable.
I is more of a snack than a feast though, clocking in at a paltry 26 minutes and 48 seconds, including the introductory track, bringing the actual music down to 5 tracks and less than 25 minutes. In all respects, that’s an affluent EP, not a full-length album, yet it is by all means marketed as such. I admit, there are shorter full-lengths, but that’s when discussing grind, for instance. I, on the other hand, is structurally quite traditional and, dare I say it, accessible. In a general sense, the tracks roll by at a steadily stomping mid-pace, never going into the sort of mind-warping dense complexity that would make a such a short running time more desirable.
In and of itself, however, accessibility or the closest dissodeath equivalent thereof is not a bad thing. In a change from the density of genre stalwarts like Ulcerate, Maere keep the unsettling textures and the off-kilter riffing that feels like walking on a tilted floor and make it easy to slide into by using repetition, clear main riffs, and telegraphing changes in tempo or intensity. In addition, the production is excellent. It has a sense of weight and density without directly assaulting the ears, with apt guitar tones and natural-sounding drums. Importantly, the mixing is spot-on, allowing the bass some room to add more depth and handling the layers of background tones nicely, adding to the immersion.
I is a full-length album in name only. Its 5 real tracks don’t satisfy on their own; they don’t have the speed or complexity to do that. If they make me feel unsatisfied, however, it’s because I really want more. In the dichotomy of harrowing riffs and unsettling textures versus a solid, easy to grasp foundation lies the essence of what sets it apart from the usual wall of heady, overly complex fare that is dissonant death metal, and I highly recommend it as an entry point for someone looking to get into the ugliest aspect of death metal. I shows Maere’s great promise, but I hope next time they will refrain from blue-balling their listeners.2