Mares of Thrace – The Exile Review

Well this came as a surprise. Shame on me for not paying closer attention to social media, but local duo Mares of Thrace have suddenly returned after a ten year hiatus with their third album, aptly titled The Exile. 2012’s The Pilgrimage was one of the first extreme metal albums I bought and liked, and then Thérèse Lanz and Stef MacKichan disappeared. Turns out they simply moved on with real life, but Lanz is back, accompanied this time around by Casey Rogers on drums and bass.1 For those unfamiliar with the band, they play a unique brand of metal that borrows from doom, sludge, prog, noise, and a bit more, and for two people they pack a massive punch.2 Can they hit with the same vigor ten years later?

I’ll tell you one thing, being gone for ten years doesn’t mean Lanz has been sitting on her laurels doing nothing. There are ten years of excellent riffs packed into The Exile, ten years of raging vocals, and ten years of great song ideas. Rogers contributes significantly as well, with great drum lines and solid bass guitar work. “Onward Ever Onward” shambles on with a lurching riff and throat-rending vocals, capped off with stellar baritone guitar work four and a half minutes in. It’s a fantastic opener. “Dark Harbours” and “Offerings of Hand and Tongue” showcase more understated and melodic facets of Mares of Thrace, the former with a moody, doomy intro that leads into complex riffing and pummelling verses, and the latter featuring some rare clean vocals from Lanz which serve to offset some truly epic and ferocious choruses.

Rogers and Lanz have mastered the art at mixing heavy and groovy, angular and uncomfortable, moody and abrasive in cohesive ways across all six tracks. “In All Her Glory” absolutely hammers – as opposed to “Dark Harbours,” there is no intro at all. The pair simply blast off and the riff that drops at the end of the first minute is fantastic. Album closer “The Thread that will Unravel You” is quite simply towering, centered on a massive doom riff that brings the album to a fitting end. Through both tracks Lanz’s throat-shredding vocal intensity keeps pace, lending the songs an intimidating fury.

How do two people make such bigly-sounding music? A lot of it comes from the baritone guitar Lanz plays. The 28-inch scale guitar was designed by Converge’s Kurt Ballou, and features separate guitar and bass pickups, each with their own output. Although as Lanz puts it, this doesn’t give her a bass and a guitar, but rather neither in a unique-sounding way. The bottom end is filled slightly by Rogers on bass, and I must also add that his drumming is excellent here. I could sense his talent on the last Caveat album, but he really shines on The Exile, perfectly complementing Lanz’s stellar guitar work. His production is also on point throughout. And one last note, the cool cover art is also designed by Lanz, who in real life is an excellent graphic artist. Nice!

If there was any worry that Mares of Thrace would lose some of their abrasive edge, that worry has been eradicated. The edge, albeit refined, is still there, and The Exile is the sound of a band in its prime, not one just slinking back in from the cold. Welcome back, Mares. You were missed.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192kbps MP3
Label: Sonic Unyon Records
Websites: |
Release Worldwide: March 25, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Rogers also plays in local prog metal outfits Greybeard and Caveat, the latter of whom released a pretty good album just a month ago.
  2. Or, since I’m a week late with this review, maybe a solid slap?
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