I like this album, the third from Finnish melodic doom/death metallers Marianas Rest, but I can't help but feel that I want to like it more than I do, and, after multiple listens, I'm trying to figure out why.
The band are certainly very comfortable in the genre, unsurprising given that they've been playing in it since 2013 and they're signed to Napalm Records. There are eight songs here, most of them patient and lengthy without ever becoming epics. With the exception of Horrokseen, which is a piano/cello interlude of sorts, there's only one piece here shorter than six minutes and only one other shorter than seven, but the longest, The Weight, only reaches nine and a half. That it's also the best is telling. Marianas Rest certainly know how to make a song breathe.
Initially, on opener Sacrificial with its long intro, they start out sounding like funeral doom. These are slow riffs and Jaakko Mäntymaa's voice doesn't show up for two minutes. Arguably, even though it's a clearly gothic doom/death release by that point, it doesn't really shift out of a funeral doom gear for two more, reminding even more of Paradise Lost when that happens. They do speed up at points, the shortest song, Pointless Tale, being the most obvious example, but there's a starkness to this that's a constant companion, even when at its most lushly gothic, with elegaic melodies and spoken word.
Oddly, given that I rather like this approach towards funeral doom/death, it's ironically Pointless Tale that, well, showed me the point. The music here is beautiful, if laden down with melancholy—it seems to have a lot fewer riffs than it actually does, as most of them are cunningly disguised as melodies—but Mäntymaa's voice is a little harsher than I expected, especially during his almost spoken section early in Pointless Tale and but also when he ramps up as the song runs on. There's a layer of keyboards behind him, that are enticing but utterly content to do their own thing and Mäntymaa doesn't seem too happy about it. The song feels like he's raging against a force he can't battle, like the sun coming up and that may be the key to the album.
My favourite song here is definitely The Weight. It's slow and soft and melancholy and, when it finds a crunch, it does so with a nice and achingly slow riff. Again the keyboards float around the music like a morning fog and the vocals battle it, fruitlessly in the context of the song, but with a strong effect on the overall sound of the album. I think I like The Weight the most because of the riffs. It doesn't really do anything else different to its peers here, but maybe that's enough for the intensity to build a little more effectively. It reminds a little of black metal at points, which this album mostly isn't.
There's majesty in the early build, somewhat like a processional, and Mäntymaa snarls effectively. It grows from there, with a palpable heaviness and a real sense of isolation, as if this music is echoing around the shell of an old cathedral, like the vibrato generated by a ghost choir. There's a strong timelessness to it that befits the longest song on the album. So it's a great song in a lot of ways, but maybe its riffs are what sell it. They're not disguised here, even though they're still melodic. They're out in the open and they're an anchor that I think much of the album does away with.
And so I like this a lot, but I want to like it more than I do. Every time The Weight comes around, it's an obvious 9/10 song for me but, as enjoyable as the rest is, those other songs don't do what The Weight does. Maybe it's the riffs and maybe it's something else but whatever it does they don't do and so I'm stuck with a 9/10 song on a 7/10 album that could have been 9/10. Maybe the next one will be. I want to hear it already. Fortunately, there are two previous albums, 2016's Horror Vacui and 2019's Ruins, that I can explore in the meantime.