Formed in 2010, the Swedish Black Metal band Mara has already released three full-length albums prior this EP, released earlier year through Belgian Immortal Frost Productions. People who were closely following the Swedish scene or the Belgian label, might already have stumbled upon this four piece, but I am afraid the band remained largely unnoticed. So, don’t be afraid to lose any of your credibility if you haven’t heard of the band before. The question that needs to be answered is whether being off the radar of many a Black Metal fan is actually making sense and if that justifies the delivered material.
After a ritualistic intro that almost had me hiding for a Rattamahatta-like jamboree, the band fires off a fairly raw sounding kind of Black Metal that finds itself somewhere in the middle of classic Norwegian and Swedish Black Metal. Their native Swedish background is heard in the fierce tempos, nifty riffs and screaming guitar leads show the musical craftsmanship of the musicians, yet it holds a certain pagan-like atmosphere that is not too different from many of the classic bands from the mid 90’s. Basically it sounds a little like a sweaty and intense jamming session between Dawn and early stage Thyrfing, Gorgoroth and Kampfar. But, it doesn’t sound dated at all, not in the least because of the great production which is rather clear but leaves enough of a rough edge to keep the whole thing from sounding all too polished and neat. The sound is also the biggest difference compared to the bands previous work. If you listen to ‘Rök’ (2019, Immortal Frost Productions) you hear a much rawer version of the band, even more in the vein of classical Norwegian Black Metal too. Since the release of ‘Rök’, the band underwent a significant line-up change too. The Danes Vrede (Myrd) and Ynleborgaz (Angantyr, Make A Change… Kill Yourself) left the band and got back to their respective own bands. Mara went back to a full Swedish line-up and slightly switched styles of which ‘Loka Mær’ is the first feat.
Answering the question I raised in the intro is of course a bit of a matter of personal taste, preference and frame of reference, yet for my money I think it is time for Mara to climb out of the deepest regions of the underground. While not particularly original, they have enough to offer and seem to perfectly fit in the current Black Metal climate in which bands that offers intriguing riffs, whirling tempos with slight ritualistic character seems to thrive. For those interested, this EP has been released physically on CD and 12” vinyl formats (in three variants). I suggest to give Mara a much deserved chance.