Friday, June 28, 2013

…ROTE MARE – ‘The Invocation’ & ‘The Kingdom’ (Albums review)

Frantic drumming, repetitious 80’s riffing, and a banshee-like wail opens ‘The Invocation’, the first of two simultaneous releases from Australia’s excellent doom soothsayers Rote Mare. While not technically a double album ‘The Invocation’ and ‘The Kingdom’ are irrevocably bound by a shared release date, complementary album art, and a reverence for traditional doom and heavy metal in general. My expectations were set exceptionally high for this release based on the strength of their split with Dire Fate (another Australian band worth checking out), their previous full-length ‘Serpents of the Church’, and the slew of self-released demos via the band’s Bandcamp page. Overall, ‘The Invocation’ and ‘The Kingdom’ don’t veer too far from the band’s earlier releases, but there is less of a focus on melodicism and more of a shift toward experimentation and a slightly rawer sound.
If anything, Rote Mare have proven that they are not slaves to convention. The 14 tracks that comprise the dual release of ‘The Invocation’ and ‘The Kingdom’ are irrefutably cut from the doom cloth, but the band doesn’t hesitate to play with style, tempo, atmospherics, or vocal delivery. The inclusion of cover songs ‘Holocaust’ and ‘Destroyer’ from Big Star and Twisted Sister, respectively, illuminates some of the band’s influences and helps to keep things interesting. Rote Mare—like most great bands that include cover tunes—tear apart, mix up, and reassemble the source material into something that is a reflection of the original, yet something new and intriguing, especially with their Big Star cover.
‘The Invocation’, ironically, opens with “The Kingdom”—a track that kicks off at a blistering pace before plunging into a vat of molasses. Band leader Phil Howlett alternates vocals between a hoarse, throaty snarl and a cleaner delivery that accompanies the more melodic sections of the song. “The Furthest Shore” not only is the shortest track to be found on either release, but it is probably one of Rote Mare’s most unique tracks to date and relies heavily on a bouncing bass groove and finds Howlett really belting out some soulful howls.  ‘The Invocation’ highlight “The Stones of Blood” sounds like the Rote Mare of old, particularly during the latter half of the song. The weepy dual guitars of Howlett and Sean Wiskin captures the melodicism that Rote Mare does so well before the tracks speeds up to a climactic gallop.
 ‘The Kingdom’, alternately, isn’t the flipside to the ‘The Invocation’, but rather a continuation or sister release. Like ‘The Invocation’, though, ‘The Kingdom’ opens strong. The intro of “Shadow of the Grave” is an atmospheric mélange of creepy keyboards and guitars that begins to stagger with the inclusion of drums before the song really establishes itself.  Similar to “The Furthest Shore”, “Shadow of the Grave” hearkens back to the Rote Mare of yore due to the track’s melodic sensibilities and Howlett’s vocal approach. The riffs are huge, memorable, and the prefect way to launch this second album. The second track, “Shameless”, is notable for devolving into a dischordant yet rhythmic exercise in hypnotism that wouldn’t be out of place on a Shellac album. “The Thief”, is a catchy, mid-tempo tune that is sporadically punctuated by Howlett’s cry and psychedelic leads.
Despite being in constant rotation for the past few weeks, ‘The Invocation’ and ‘The Kingdom’ are still unearthing secrets…the depths have only been plumbed on a seemingly superficial level. Rote Mare have continued to impress with their brand of traditional doom metal and their ability to navigate and include a variety of styles and influences without sacrificing cohesion. While it’s almost impossible to separate the two releases I find myself returning to ‘The Kingdom’ a bit more frequently. While it may be the stronger of the two it would now feel incomplete without its twin. Highly recommended for all doom aficionados.
 Words: Steve Miller

1 comment: