Kotka natives MARIANAS REST released their sophomore album, “Ruins,” in April last year on Inverse Records, bringing heavy, melodic riffs and a dark brooding atmosphere to the listeners.
For those of you unfamiliar with this band, they play a very upbeat type of doom metal with a powerful melancholic undertone to the music. Usually when we hear the term doom metal, we expect slow-tempo songs and sludgy, down-tuned guitars (à la PARADISE LOST or MY DYING BRIDE), but in this case, we have a big wall of sound and melody coming precisely from the fierceness of the guitars and vocals. Niilo Sevänen (INSOMNIUM) lends his voice to this album by reciting fragments from Lord Byron’s poem “Darkness,” fragments of which are placed in key moments of the songs for an added sense of mystery and gothic aura, while Timo Virkkala’s cello melodies make the music extra melancholic. Lyrically, the album tells the story of how a mind slowly crumbles: introversion, putting up mental walls, and eventually disappearing inside your own head.
The album is very layered and complex, as within each of the 8 songs, you hear heavier passages, atmospheric moments, and also some spoken word sections that flow together incredibly well. The first track “Kairos” opens with the voice of Niilo Sevänen saying “I had a dream, which was not just a dream” (the first line from “Darkness”), which sets a very ominous tone for what is to come – a barrage of aggressive guitars and pounding drums that soon make way for Jaakko Mäntymaa’s brutal harsh vocals. The ebb and flow of the music on this track (you get everything from whispered vocals to screams and growls), but also on the album in general, is very well crafted and really takes the listener on a rollercoaster ride. “The Spiral” emphasizes the melancholy aspect of MARIANAS REST with beautiful underlying keyboard melodies and whispered vocals, while the guitars are loud and very melodic, and the vocals are both brutal and sensitive. There’s such a neat dynamic in their music that allows every instrument to shine, while still making everything sound cohesive and coherent and it feels, like with “The Spiral,” you get a very good calling card of who this band is and what it does best.
“Hole in Nothing” and especially “The Defiant” showcase their aggressive side better as they throw a bit of black metal in the mix, while still keeping the melancholy vibe in the music. Harri Sunila and Nico Mänttäri’s guitars keep things even, adding so much melody to the songs, melody that usually comes from the vocal delivery, and I really love this shift. “Unsinkable” is a mid-tempo rocker, with mostly whispered vocals, a superb guitar line, and somber harmonies coming from Niko Lindman’s bass that allow the music (and listeners) to breathe a little before plunging into a more dramatic and intense ending section. The doomy pieces, “Shadows” and “Restitution,” are very dark and brooding, with the guitars sounding a bit down-tuned and more sorrowful and mournful vocals; as a listener, you really feel like you are surrounded by shadows as you are listening to these tracks. The moody “Omega” features dramatic cello lines and a very gloomy and doomy atmosphere enhanced by the guitars (the extended solo is brilliant, by the way) and vocals, closing the album on a very desolate yet delicate note.
I cannot stress enough how magnificent the guitars sound throughout the album, and how well they complement the vocals and the overall melancholy feel of “Ruins.” Also, the way the songs flow together, the transition from the aggressive first part of the album to the rather mellow second part, and how cohesive everything sounds, is another big plus of this album.
All-in-all, I feel like MARIANAS REST is at the crossroad between MY DYING BRIDE’s doom metal style and INSOMNIUM’s brand of melodeath. They explore this mix of genres to the fullest on “Ruins,” making this album not only a staple of their sound but also an exciting addition to the “Finnish melancholy” catalogue. Highly recommended!
Written by Andrea Crow
2. The Spiral
3. Hole in Nothing
4. The Defiant
Jaakko Mäntymaa – Vocals
Harri Sunila – Guitars
Nico Mänttäri – Guitars
Nico Heininen – Drums
Niko Lindman – Bass
Aapo Koivisto – Keyboards