(This is DGR’s review of the new EP by Sweden’s Gloson, which was released on April 5th by Black Lion Records.)
The sinister atmospherics that run throughout Gloson’s newest EP Mara — coming in two years after their excellent full-length Grimen — are entirely by design and not a happy accident. If any band has shown a keen mastery of the frightening undertone to their music in recent years, Gloson would be included in the discussion. Our premiere of Mara’s first song “Usurper” touched on the song’s sense of presence early in the writeup, drawing contrast to our compatriot Andy’s review of Grimmen and then highlighting the continued intensity that “Usurper” picks up and carries forward on their newest release.
Gloson describe the concept behind the EP on their Bandcamp page for Mara as such:
The concept of our new EP Mara is about our subconsciousness while being asleep; being stuck between the realm of dreams and reality. Portraying personal demons has usually been the agenda of Gloson, and the most graphic and terrifying ones occur during such states.
So if there was any thought that the almost sixteen minutes of crawling sludge and doom across two songs was going to play nice, then Gloson seek to wipe that away fast.
Gloson’s sound could probably best be described as a photograph, if you’ll travel down this path of weird analogy with us.
If you’ve followed heavy metal for a while you’ve no doubt crossed paths with the photo of a guitarist bent over backwards, sometimes so far they could stamp the logo on the rear of their shoes into the back of their head if they hit it with enough force, usually right before they thrust forward in recovery and in time with the music. We can almost picture how that moment sounds because we know that groove, that downward-moving sound that causes people to want to headbang forwards.
Gloson sound like that, and much of their music is built out of that constant and forward-moving slow groove, making them one of the easiest bands to nod along with as each dramatic motion propels the song inches ahead into another arena of smoky atmospherics and low, bellowed growls. Grimen was an excellent album for that: part narration, part atmospherics, and a crushingly heavy experience. It makes sense that their music video for the song “Cringe” from that album is basically ten and a half minutes of that specific feeling. Mara continues along that pathway with each of its near-eight-minute songs causing an almost undeniable urge to headbang as hard as the band is on each movement.
It is incredibly easy to give into Mara’s hypnotic nature, and before you know it, to have made multiple runs through the pairing of “Usurper” and “Equinox”, especially when you consider that the first flows almost seamlessly into the other. “Usurper” may end on the song fading out, but “Equinox” picks up on a very similar rhythm and continues down the pathway its immediate predecessor began traversing.
To understand a little bit of Mara, Gloson were kind enough to provide a description of the two songs:
“‘Usurper’ is about when you are the protagonist of a dream and have to wade through oceans of unreal horror that dwells within, while ‘Equinox’ is the other way around, when you yourself are the antagonist and the chokehold of everything that is real and unreal.”
You get the dreamlike sense almost immediately from the two songs, especially as “Usurper” rings in with its crushing opening riff+ringing noise combination, but on top of that the two songs also contain brief bits of narration, including what has to be one of the most sinister laughs recorded along this particular musical journey. While “Equinox” may have the more horrifying description, it actually proves to be the ‘prettier’ of the two songs, sharing more in common with their previous album Grimen’s closing song “Embodiment” and its melodic nature.
“Equinox” has what could pass for a lead melody at times and has quite a bit of gorgeous guitar playing in between each crashing strum of the guitar with the drums coloring in the spaces between the band’s percussive writing. Each groaning step forward is highlighted by another crash of the cymbals behind it. It’s easy to see why the band chose to go cosmic for their music video for “Usurper” because Mara is the sort of album that demonstrates how easily Gloson could fill a vast space with sound… were space itself not a vacuum.
Mara is an excellent followup to the group’s debut and the sort of EP that leaves you desperately wanting more from the group. Gloson are a doom and sludge combo who have figured out exactly how to make this sort of music without giving in to the genre’s tendency of long, slow passages that are as empty as the songwriting itself. Mara’s two songs prove to be as dramatic and as ugly as the EP’s concept hints at, and Gloson’s sense of forward-moving groove has to rank amongst the best out there.
Both “Usurper” and “Equinox” are iterative progression on what the band were writing two years ago with Grimen, taking a proven formula and expanding upon it. At about fifteen and a half minutes, Mara seems to fly by, and it is a credit to Gloson that they can make two seven-plus minute songs feel that way. Even though you may be on your third or fourth loop of the EP, there is always a sense of the next awesome part coming up, and you just have to hear that and then you’ll shut it off, and that’s how you find yourself spinning Mara constantly.
Hopefully, Gloson are able to record more in the future, because if Mara is anything to go by, the followup to that should be something to watch for like a hawk.