When a duo can hold their own against a crowded field of sludgy, progressive metal acts with at least twice as members on the strength of their intense performances and top-notch songwriting, it’s something worth celebrating. When that duo happens to comprise two women, in a genre field where men outnumber women at least 50 to 1 (just an educated guess), that’s even more rare. And yet Mares of Thrace, a duo composed of KEN Mode’s Thérèse Lanz and drummer Stefani McKichan, stir up some unbelievably brutal sounds on sophomore album The Pilgrimage, a testament to the power of incredibly sharp and noise-loving musicians in small numbers.
The Pilgrimage is a ten-track journey through bilious muck that, judging by the song titles, carries some loose Biblical themes throughout (if you can actually make out Lanz’s gutturally screeched lyrics, however, is another story). Suffice it to say, this is probably the most venomous retelling of Bible stories as one is likely to hear. Lanz and McKichan grind out mathematically complex noise rock through songs like “The Perpetrator” and “Act I: David Glimpses Bathsheba,” while descending into ugly, low-end doom in “The Pragmatist” and “The Gallwasp,” despite not actually having a bassist. That’s not much of a detriment to the band’s sound, however, for while they wring an incredible racket from the limited instruments being used, very little seems out of place.
As with many metal bands whose techniques lie largely within the realm of noise rock, Mares of Thrace’s sonic journey on The Pilgrimage is a dark and unsettling one. Yet for as much terror lurks within their riffs and rumbles, there’s an invigorating sense of innovation as well. Finding one’s way out of the labyrinth Mares of Thrace create is a tricky task, but reveals some terrifyingly amazing things around every corner.
Stream: Mares of Thrace – “The Gallwasp”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.