Mares of Thrace

The Pilgrimage

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With their eye-opening, ear-challenging sophomore album, 2012's The Pilgrimage, Canadian duo Mares of Thrace score a few points, not only for the ailing health of so-called post-metal, but for rock & roll's post-gender equality, in general. After all, even as women continue to infiltrate the male-dominated rock world in ever-greater numbers, old prejudices die hard; so first time listeners really can't really be faulted for mistaking Thérèse Lanz's savage howls for those of a man, nor can returning listeners be blamed for what skepticism may linger from the Mares' first, frankly underwhelming LP. So above all else, The Pilgrimage goes a long way toward legitimizing vocalist/guitarist/electronics operator Lanz and her drum-pounding co-conspirator, Stefani MacKichan, as something more than some kind of gimmick. Yes, the duo's deceivingly free-form amalgam of metal, prog, sludge, hardcore, noise, and industrial building blocks owe a great debt to everyone from Neurosis to Crisis to Made Out of Babies (hence the all purpose post-metal description), but that doesn't make the resulting tracks any less surprising, intriguing, and seductive on their own merits. Cataclysmic outbursts and introspective moments, visceral brutality, and calculated gentleness constantly joust within the confines of a single song (see "The Gallwasp," "The Perpetrator," "The Goat Thief," etc.), providing endless unexpected twists and neck-snapping turns until the twin-pronged, dynamically schizophrenic closing tandem of "The Three-Legged Courtesan…" "…And the Blind Surgeon." And not that you'll be able to tell by those largely unintelligible roars, but there's an overarching story line based on the Hebrew Bible's tale of King David and Bathsheba stretching across all these tracks, for your entertainment. Never mind that, though: the bottom line is Mares of Thrace have shown much improvement and delivered an album worth listening to on their second attempt.

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