Maegashira - The Stark Arctic Review
by Mark Hensch
The Stark Arctic sounds like doom metal turned feral. The music is blatantly aggressive, pouncing on listeners with raw, animalistic fury. At times, it rants and raves its way through realms of hard-hitting doom half Eyehategod, half Sleep. At others, the ferocity is slowed into a stalking that recalls the unsettling paranoia of Electric Wizard and Earth. When cross-bred, such disparate influences produce a doom metal beast that is both psychotic and psychedelic.
Anatomically speaking, Maegashira's core lies in its gargantuan but lithe rhythm section comprised of bassist John Eager and skinsman Steve Moraghan. For his part, guitarist George Pierro's riffs maintain Sleep's fuzzy atmospherics but with psychedelic shredding ala Orange Goblin at High on Fire speeds. Rounding out the pack is vocalist JJ Koczan, a savage singer armed with Kodiak growls, coyote shrieks and even lunatic crooning. When put together, these various elements form a tribe of brutality.
Opening cut "Ongoing Corneal Erosion" sets the tension nicely, its vast rhythmic sparkle providing an atmosphere of calm before the storm. When the lightning strikes, doom metal "Caribou Crossing" blazes past with trippy guitar solos and bruising riffs. The rage expressed here is palpable, literally ripping through the already brawny music via Koczan's violent outbursts.
Following this, the punishment continues with the wicked "Ammonia for Sweat." Its slow, relentlessly plodding doom maintains predatory confidence, and with good reason – metal like this is top of the food chain. At some points, it snarls with hazy guitars and surreal lyrics. At others, the song roars with crushing beatdowns which float off into hypnotic black holes of carnage. No matter the point of the song, "Ammonia" is doom at its dirty, destructive best.
The album next switches gears with "Baggage Claim/Skin Slip," a gigantic tune which immediately hits the road with some gnarly doom 'n roll. This stampede dynamic tramples everything in its path, all before morphing into an unhinged piece of backwoods finger-picking every bit as unnerving as Deliverance
"Hi from Jersey," meanwhile, is pure straight hate distilled in blood and bile. It lays a serious pair of boots into listeners and really kicks out some teeth. Short, simplistic and savage, the song is a blunt object to the face of hipsters and hypocrites everywhere. Beyond that, it is pure catharsis and essential listening.
Winding down Arctic is the epic "Back to Muro." "Muro" grows from some psychedelic guitar conjurations into an increasingly bad acid trip. When the bleak smog clears, what emerges from the forest clearing is a ravenous set of riffs which are amongst the fiercest on the album. From then on out, the entire track thrashes around at various speeds like a wounded animal, finally lying down to die amidst eerie ambient effects.
All-in-all, The Stark Arctic is a record which grants doom an aura of untamed abandon. From its monstrous rhythms to its gritty, cathartic lyrics, Arctic shows listeners that at times the real wilderness lies in themselves.
Ongoing Corneal Erosion
Ammonia for Sweat
Baggage Claim/Skin Slip
Hi from Jersey
Back to Muro
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