Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Album Review: Maras - Raskol

Maras - Raskol

Artist: Maras (Macedonia)
Album Title: Raskol
Record Label: Alatir Promotion / Terror Blast (Macedonia)
Released: 2008
Purchased From: Paragon Records / The Metal Underground

When it comes to the metal scene in the small Balkan nation of Macedonia (formerly a part of Yugoslavia, which was still a country when I learned geography in school), I can count all the bands I know on one finger. Fortunately, that band happens to be Maras, a great pagan-themed black metal band that has been around since 2003. I tend to be cautious when it comes to black metal these days, because a lot of "pagan black metal" bands I've heard lately have been of the "Norsecore" variety, with lots of blasting and tremolo picking (or underproduced, unlistenable noise). Some people like that kind of music, but I like something with a little more "groove" to it; something I can bang my head to. I hadn't heard of Maras until a few months ago, but I bought their album Raskol based pretty much entirely on the album artwork. It has a style that screams "Slavic pagan metal" and I decided to take a chance on it.

Maras doesn't belong to the "Norsecore" style of black metal. Instead, they strike me as being more of an "old school" black metal band. There's a strong (and welcome) influence of thrash in the riffing and drumming, so that rather than just endless blasting and tremolo picking, we get a variety of tempos and moods. There are some fast moments on the album, but also mid-paced and slow tempos. There's even a breakdown at one point. Similarly, there is variety in the vocals, which range from clean chants (think Ulver's Bergtatt) to strong black metal shrieks and mid-range death growls. Finally, there's a bit of Macedonian folk music that shows up towards the end of the album. I'm not an expert on Macedonian music, but the little that I've heard uses hand percussion and scales that sound Middle Eastern, and that's true here, too. There's not much of it, to reassure those who are scared away by the term "folk metal," but just enough to give it a little "exotic" flavor.

I really enjoy listening to this album. It's not too polished, but not too raw, either. The sound quality is very good. The album is rather short (just over 32 minutes long) but it leaves me wanting more, and there really aren't any low points or wasted time on the album. Musically, Maras is quite talented, and the vocals are particularly good for this kind of music. In short, this one is a winner! I certainly hope there's more to come from this accomplished band.

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