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Maegashira - "The Stark Arctic" (CD)

Maegashira - "The Stark Arctic" CD cover image

"The Stark Arctic" track listing:

1. Ongoing Corneal Erosion (3:50)
2. Caribou Crossing (6:31)
3. Ammonia For Sweat (9:10)
4. Baggage Claim/Skin Slip (10:48)
5. Hi From Jersey (6:50)
6. Back To Muro (22:01)

Reviewed by on January 9, 2009

"“The Stark Arctic” is mostly filled with immense and vast sound to crush anything in its path but occasionally goes for that dead space feel common to drone..."

After putting out two demos the New Jersey based act Maegashira has finally released a full length album to provide metal fans with a full hour of their unique take on the doom genre. “The Stark Arctic” is mostly filled with immense and vast sound to crush anything in its path, but occasionally goes for that dead space feel common to drone when the music slows to a crawl to make stark contrasts or let sounds sink in for awhile before moving on.

After a few brief moments of silence, “Ongoing Corneal Erosion” trudges along with a slow and funky bass driven rhythm, like something that might be heard just before a shootout between guys wearing Stetsons and spurs. The name fits the song well as its downplayed and understated tones are a bit like the musical equivalent of the pull to stare at the sun and let the world of sight get burned away even though conventional wisdom would advise against such an action. The funky and rocking style sticks around for the next track, “Caribou Crossing,” which has a seriously psychedelic guitar riff that tries to emulate an acid trip through sound alone. The incredibly sexy bass lines, which are integral to most of the song structures, are a seriously welcome aspect in a genre that tends to relegate the bass to afterthought status.

The vocals accompanying each track tend to be much more diverse than in the average doom act, as they range from a low but completely comprehensible yell to a screeching rasp and even a few instances of both ultra deep growls and melodic clean singing. There is some good variety between each of the different songs as well. “Hi From Jersey” is a crazed declaration against privileged scene kids living like rock stars and then whining about how tough life is when they are on stage. It might put off some, as it’s absurdly slow moving and features the vocalist basically screaming about things that piss him off without trying to arrange the words themselves into any sort of meaningful or poetic arrangement, but maybe that lack of posturing is the whole point. The song doesn’t take itself too seriously and even seems to poke fun at itself from time to time.

The first three minutes of the massive “Back To Muro” are quite a bit like “Ongoing Corneal Erosion,” using heavy bass and then adding in some disorienting sounds played out of sync that give the sort of hazy impression of wandering through the desert without water as everything goes out of focus and the buzzards start circling overhead. At twenty-two minutes in length with plenty of prolonged and drawn out riffs, it approaches the drone sound on more than one occasion. There are many interesting things happening during the course of the song, but it’s hard to keep momentum going for such an extended amount of time, so it does drag a bit and can become a chore to sit through towards the end as the repetition sets in.

The track “Ammonia For Sweat” is one of the crowning achievements of the album as it strikes the best balance between the droning of “Back To Muro,” the oddity of “Hi From Jersey,” and the strong feel of “Caribou Crossing.” It’s definitely the song to check out for anyone who isn’t sure if Maegashira is for them or not.

Exactly what style to peg Maegashira down as isn’t entirely clear. Acid rock? Stoner metal? Cheesecake doom? “The Stark Arctic” is a world gone totally mad, like a nightmare induced by Bud light and square pizza. Music by a band named after a Sumo wrestling rank can’t be expected to change your life, summon demons from the nether, or spur you on to go vote for a Democrat, but it definitely can and does entertain.

Highs: Sexy bass lines, cool atmosphere, varied vocals

Lows: Some repitition in the longer songs and a few less serious moments

Bottom line: A solid hour of psychedelic and rock oriented doom metal

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)