(Comrade Aleks brings us the following interview of Sergio Álvarez, guitarist for the sadly split-up Chilean band Mar de Grises, whose albums The Tatterdemalion Express and Draining The Waterheart have recently been released by the Spanish label The Vinyl Division on vinyl format with remastered audio.)
Mar de Grises was one of most promising doom-acts from Chile since the release of their debut The Tatterdemalion Express in 2004. They presented a melodic yet aggressive version of doom death, I would compare it with Daylight Dies and Katatonia of the Brave Murder Day period, with a proper amount of keyboards parts, but actually Mar de Grises never copied anyone and their influences are wider. Their style was always recognizable because of utter melodies, progressive dynamics, math-breaks and powerful extreme vocals.
The band split-up in 2013, and its members walked their own paths, but news of the vinyl reissue of their first two albums made me get in touch with Mar de Grises‘ ex-guitarist Sergio Álvarez and complete a short interview.
Hi Sergio! How are you? What’s going on now in Santiago?
Hey Aleks, awesome chatting with you again.
The situation in Santiago is very similar to that of the whole world. We are likely living “a short summer” before the numbers go up again, as has already happened in all of Europe. In general, people here do take care of themselves and have behaved responsibly, so for now the infections are somewhat controlled. Me and my loved ones are also OK, luckily. Always alert and cautious whenever we need to commute to work or similar 🙂
There were long running protests in Chile this year. Just add to this the pandemic and the whole picture is terrible! How bad is the situation now?
Yes, last year’s October people (myself included) took to the streets to protest. The protests were massive, often hundreds of thousands. Health and pensions are among the things people are most unhappy about. Chile’s level of inequality is among the highest in the OECD. The country’s one-percenters control everything, even law-passing. People are sick and tired of the president, and the political class at large. Some senators and deputies have less than 6% approval.
Because of the protests we had a referendum to draft a new constitution. It had 80% approval! It came with a cost though. Police repression has been brutal, people have died, many have been injured. Hundreds have either partially or fully lost their sight.
As you mentioned, protests and then the pandemic, back to back. About 6 months of total confinement. And, even though we are ATM living the “summer” version of the pandemic, we still have state-mandated curfews. It has been tough, to put it mildly.
Despite all of this mess, Mar de Grises, which split up seven years ago, has some news for fans of melodic doom death. What led you to this big reissue of the band’s discography?
Rodrigo Morris (Mar de Grises’ guitarist) had been working with David from The Vinyl Division (Spain). They worked on some editions for Mourning Sun, which is a doom metal band Rodrigo plays in. David came up with the idea of reissuing the The Tatterdemalion Express and Draining the Waterheart albums on vinyl. We got very excited about it, and so we picked up the work, pretty much in the same fashion as in the old days, so … a lot! 😀 Fortunately the response has been awesome, especially here in Chile.
The reissues are limited to 500 copies (of each album). The artwork was revamped by Irene Serrano (Devin Townsend, Rotting Christ, Pain of Salvation, Jens Bogren, etc.). The remaster was done by Jaime Gomez Arellano (Ghost, Paradise Lost, Ulver, Cathedral, Sólstafir, Mayhem, etc). The releases are on double vinyl, gatefold and with an insert with quotes by former band members. We are super happy with the result!
Can you remind me why you split up back then in 2013?
We were very self-critical, always aiming to make the most interesting and best sounding music we could. Around 2012-13 both time and energy were running low. Work, family, and other things that are important to us as individuals were leaving less and less time for Mar de Grises, and so we felt it was time to stop.
The Tatterdemalion Express
I remember in about the same period you played in Russia. What were your highlight shows with Mar de Grises?
Yeah! We played in Russia in 2011 and loved it. Tim and the production team were awesome to us. I recall the number of people at the gig was rather large, for doom standards 😉 Russia has a very different culture from South America so we really liked being there and getting to know a little about Moscow. Life goals checkmark! hehehe.
As for your question, every show was important to us. But I could name, for instance, our gig in Doom Shall Rise (2005) as a standout. The sound, audience, and the fact it was hosted in a church, made it one of the highlights of our first European tour. The gigs in Spain were always quite good too. But as I said I have very good memories of our tours, and made good friends along the line.
The band’s last album Streams Inwards was released in 2010, so there were three years between the release and the break. Did you close Mar de Grises having no new songs at all? Does this reissue contain any unreleased material?
There were songs on the making after Streams Inwards. And there have been songs that didn’t make it to the albums. None of them were finished nor recorded properly, unfortunately. So the reissues don’t have any new/unreleased songs, but they have been remastered by Jaime Gomez, and so the released stuff itself is sounding much better.
The Tatterdemalion Express (2004) and Draining the Waterheart (2008) were released by Firebox Records. How would you sum up the collaboration with this label? As I remember Rami Hippi, its head, was quite supportive.
Rami is a great guy, no question about it. Always positive and supporting, as well as hard-working. Whenever he could, he’d give us a hand.
So, the Spanish label The Vinyl Division did reissues of both The Tatterdemalion Express and Draining the Waterheart, leaving Streams Inwards aside. Was it a problem to get permission from Season Of Mist for its reissue?
My impression is that David was a bit more interested in the first two albums, and so we ended up focusing on “just” that. We’ll see if in the future (I hope a near one) SOM decides to release Streams Inwards on vinyl.
Draining the Waterheart
Did you discuss the possibility of making a few gigs as Mar de Grises with the other guys?
Yes, we have. But things being as they are now, well, it puts a little bit of a cap on that. I guess our live music plans are as concrete as those of anyone else right now; who knows when live shows will be able to make a proper return.
Sergio, since some point you’ve joined the melodic death band Darkemist and the black metal band Adkan. Didn’t you want to keep on following the doom path further? There are few great or promising doom bands in Chile nowadays.
I always carry doom close to my heart, hehehe. But, yea, playing other styles of metal is also very appealing to me. I enjoy different ways of composing and performing, and, well, I’ve always liked melodeath and black metal. (Also, when friends invite me to play it is difficult to say no 🙂
Doom in Chile is a niche, but I feel that, in general, good music outpours. Poema Arcanvs continues to make excellent stuff (they just released Stardust Solitude), Juan Escobar has a new project called Wooden Veins that is very good, and Rodrigo Morris is playing with Mourning Sun, which is already a household name in the local scene… There are quite a few bands doing impressive things.
Are Darkemist and Adkan active now? Do you plan to release new recordings this year?
Unfortunately Darkemist is no longer active, but Adkan is 🙂 With them we recently recorded a single for the alien horror movie made by Ramón (bass and vocals), called SEJI. We will upload it in a few days to Spotify and Youtube, along with a video clip. We have also been making music for an album, which we aim to release next year. We are about 3/4 there 🙂
Thanks very much for the interview! Always a pleasure to chat with you!
Sleep Just One Dawn