Mara: Cult of Lilith’s Explosive Emergence
As Thanksgiving came and went, I found myself more thankful for the small things in such a morose and uncertain time. Such as the fact that despite the many hindrances brought upon by the virus, 2020 has seen yet another wave of immensely talented acts putting their best foot forward with releases that, I dare say, may top 2019’s excellent roster. Among these groups we have Icelandic newcomers Cult of Lilith bringing you what might be, if nothing else, the most explosive full length debut of the year.
Enter Mara: A viciously entrancing journey through the dreams and terrors of man’s subconscious. Named after the malicious, nightmare-inducing entity of Icelandic mythology, Mara expresses many intense emotions through their meticulous, mind-bending musical prowess and thought-provoking lyrical articulation. Fear, sadness, anger, insanity, anxiety. All of which you will meet along the way, encapsulated through one riff or another melody.
Production on this record is absolutely crushing and untouchable. It is no surprise that studio veteran Dave Otero played the role of master audio weaver as the record’s mixing and mastering engineer. With his work adduced by records such as Cattle Decapitation’s Death Atlas and Archspire’s Relentless Mutation, one can retain confidence that the mix will leave even the snobbiest of internet production trolls quiet and content. Everything from the fullness of the guitars to the powerful, thick, punchy drums rings clear and easy for the listener to make out. Therefore fans of the gross and incomprehensible BDM must use caution when treading unfamiliar waters. All jokes aside Otero absolutely nailed this record as he so often does with Death Metal’s most extreme talents. What I found most impressive was how he handled Mario’s clean sections. Some records, in my personal opinion, leave much to be desired in the way of reverb and atmosphere. Otero’s clean vocal mix fills the atmosphere beautifully without obstructing or overflowing the headroom. Keys and orchestral arrangements also flow without obstruction or constriction. Once again, Otero proves to be one of the best Death Metal producers in the business today.
Mara starts its journey with Cosmic Maelstrom. Immediately, this track exempli the bands years of growth since their 2016 EP both instrumentally and vocally. Vocalist Mario Infantes wastes no time stepping up to the plate with a solidifying example of his masterful voice control in the track’s powerful chorus. Layering coherent melody atop harsh projections A sharp turn from the previous vocalist’s ‘Deeds of Flesh-esque’ guttural style. Daniel and Kristján
Purple Tide takes a similarly vicious, yet cheeky sort-of vibe. Weaving through heavy crunchy chug riffs and melodic thrash sections, you’ll eventually run into a jazzy sort-of synth-key section awkwardly dancing over the groove as well as Mario’s chants. Awkward, but absolutely intriguing and albeit entrancing. Nevertheless, a fun little twist to implement. Preceding tide, Enter the Mancubus follows up with another heavy riff, blast attack wrapped with a beautifully executed vocal melody found in the tracks chorus. At this point it’s already clear the album has plenty to offer in the way of diversity not even halfway through.
As you reach Atlas and Comatose you’ll notice the album does not cease to impress in its progression. The former presenting yet another spellbinding vocal performance to start it off while the latter fires away with mosh inducing ferocity outroed with an ominous key section that fades with the ether. Atlas had struck me as a favorite, though the climax of the story of Mara had yet to be reached. Oh how quickly I was reminded by the pieces of art that followed.
Profeta Paloma was amongst the most impressive and eclectic of the record. After drifting into Gojira territory, the flow finds itself falling seamlessly into a Spanish folk section. A musical direction that absolutely blew me away solidifying my interest even further. As if I wasn’t already locked in like a Lutheran chastity belt.
Zángano continues the cycle of melody vs riff focused following Profeta. Though recognizable, the track, as well as the riffs themselves, are far from immemorable. Then we come to the climaxing track, the crown jewel of an already immaculate piece of art: Le soupir du Fantôme. The track leads you in with an acoustic melody which is then accompanied by an absolutely astonishing performance of a powerful operatic style of singing. By the time the song finished I found myself dumbfounded by the amount of talent a band could fit into one song.
Despite summarizing to the best of my ability, my words can only paint so clear of a picture. I encourage any and all music enthusiast to take a trip down this paralyzingly beautiful road. With all intentions met, Mara succeeds in leaving the listener speechless yet eager for more.
With the amount of work and meticulous thought put into this record, it would be a crime to give Mara anything less than a 10/10.
It’s a difficult task to pick a favorite amongst such perfection in my honest opinion. Although if it could be narrowed down to a top 3 list starting with 3 it would follow as Purple Tide, Profeta Paloma, Le soupir du Fantôme.
Cult of Lilith have surely left a mark with such an explosive emergence. Surely there is much more to come in the future. To keep up, be sure to follow Cult of Lilith on all social media platforms to stay updated on the band’s future endeavours and to purchase any available merch to help support wherever you can.