After the 2018 debut and masterpiece „Therapy For An Empath“, Latvian death/thrash/groove metal band MĀRA released their second EP titled “Self-Destruct. Survive. Thrive!” on 13th May 2020.
Who is MĀRA?
Māra is not only the highest-ranking goddess in Latvian mythology but this outstanding band which consists of four excellent musicians: Māra Lisenko is well known as an experienced international vocal coach and a true master of brutal screams, deep growls or fragile, emotional and clear singing. If you want to know more about her vocal lessons, check out her homepage. (here)
Denis Melnik is the big melodic influence of the band. Although he played piano for eight years, he is dedicated to the strings of his guitars since he first listened to “Rock ‘n’ Roll” of Motörhead. Alberts Mednis started playing drum on pillows at home – while watching music DVDs – and decided to study on rock music school with the best Latvian drummers possible to develop his own style. Dmitry Lisenko is not only Māra’s husband but the mastermind on bass guitar. Check out his unique percussive finger style he developed on his own.(here)
What is Included?
The EP “Self-Destruct. Survive. Thrive!” contains an interesting intro and four brand new songs plus the smashing “Life Kills (Fear)”, already pre-released in late 2019 as video. All these songs have a true and self-experienced storyline – feel invited to find out more on yourself! Despite deliberately disharmonic elements, such as many breaks and hasty speed, in the end, each song certainly is catchy each in its own fashion. The undeniable use of synthesizer sounds in an atmosphere-charging role refers strongly to the industrial genre while then again MĀRA are all but shy to integrate the finesse of jazz elements only to bind it with the grooviest bass lines, and seal the knot with heavily shredding guitars.
Should We Start Listening?
Let’s first have a look at the very shamanic and traditional Latvian “Intro”. One would expect it from bands like Kaunis Kuolematon or Heilung. It is all over spiritual, ambient, atmospheric. Unfortunately, it is only one minute long. I could have listened to and dreamed away with it for an hour instead… Still it would make a good prelude of forthcoming live shows.
comes along with an energetic brutal guitar sound and groovy bass turning to an insane speed, highly diverse full range vocals, from deep growling to clean vocals. It is a near-to-perfection combination of Death Metal passages and a catchy, almost carefree pop attitude but still unsettling chorus with clean vocals. That is how it must feel when a gory massacre has become a nice little song. Unbelievable how much energy can be put in just three and a half minute.
“Beauty Of Humanity”
features Björn Strid from Soilwork as guest vocalist. Indeed, he seems to be pushed to his limits by Māra Lisenko who takes over the brutal part of the duet. Certainly not a song for the faint-hearted though the chorus delivers optimism in a storm of rage and chaos. Could you imagine, he is also the soft voice of The Night Flight Orchestra? What a beast let loose they both are! Underlaid with some anthem-like keyboard passages and a little bit of industrial soundscapes, this is how a metal-duet really should sound like. We can only hope to see both of them performing this song together on stage.
is self-promising “nomen est omen”. Neck-breaking speed, straight guitars, overwhelming bass lines and machine gun-like drums underlined by her growling vocals and Māra’s unique clean chorus style. The use of background synthesizers isn’t helping much, the sound of the song is as brutal and right between the eyes as its message, religionipulation. Gut stirring like a parasite winding ever deeper into your body and the more the parasite seems to rule over body functions. Well, that is what religion is all about, “opiate of the masses” as Karl Marx once – falsely translated and interpreted – mentioned.
“Life Kills (Fear)”
is a rough but catchy song with an unexpected, nevertheless atmospheric and thoughtful bridge. Everybody should understand the message of the song, yes, life kills and you might fear it but you can beat it. Life is fatal in 100 % of the cases. No exceptions. No exclusions. No rescue. This message unfolds already in the previously released video. But everybody who still gets up will overcome it and become a winner, no matter how often you’re knocked down by life. All you need to do is to get up once more often than you’re knocked down. The vibe of the song seems like a demon speaking to us directly from the voids of hell. The diversity in vocals sounds as if several persons are having a conversation and leave you in a nearly constant state of terror. (Watch the amazing video here)
“Don’t Look Back In Grief”
features Jeff Hughell of Six Feet Under as additional bass player. This song is not a duel or a duet but a full-force weapon cutting through your flesh and bones, even your brain. No limitation as long as you “don’t look back in grief” is it as exhausting as eye opening. Māra Lisenko herself says about the song, it is written for a real person who suffered a big loss some time ago. When you close your eyes and just let atmosphere, sound and vocals of the song flow over you, it can become much more or totally different. It can be a fairy tale about knights and sirens, dragons and beasts or about living now instead of being stuck in the worries of yesterday or there’s something else behind, find out and decide yourself. There is a straightness that provides quite easy access to the song – maybe more than any other on the EP but in return the drums steadfastly pound their way through the meanders of the song – and don’t forget the guitar solo!
So…., Will it Survive and Thrive or Will it Self-destruct?
I like the intro though it differs strongly from the otherwise coherent songs. It’s the black lamb on the pasture of white sheeps or perhaps rather the other way round. The groovy bass is perfect. The vocals are undeniable one of the best of the genre. Drums and guitars are exactly to the point. Coherence and catchiness despite the fully intended and neatly integrated disharmony elements make it a finest piece of art. Every song has a unique and completely different sound concept. This way the whole album receives an extremely high variety and is seemingly too short. Nevertheless, if you keep in mind that “Therapy For An Empath” is less than two years young, together they would make a very complete and complex album. Most “bigger” (but better???) bands have a lower output though they have much more budget and support by their labels than the often more skilled bands of the underground.
A Few Words and My Thoughts About the Cover Art
At the front, nearly left, it seems to be a three-faced unholy goddess standing on a tip of a highly sharpened blade. If you look closer you recognize a completely cut open down corpus with its internal organs. The background on the right seems to a chain of mountains formed with demon faces. At the bottom you can read the title of the EP, “Self-Destruct. Survive. Thrive!”, the first two words crossed out, so survive and thrive even with your guts torn out seems to be the real message behind! On my mind this survive and thrive can’t work without or resulting in resilience. The mastery of personal strength is being able to show weakness. While her three-faced head refers to the frequency of challenges that a soul is not able to cope with, the inside-out torso symbolizes the weakness shown openly, but also pain and torment, the hardhships. There is nothing more to lose and thus accepting settings as they are and live with them is the last choice. And that is the greatest strength we can have. As such the cover art is a metaphorical role model – utmost fitting the recent common challenges! The colours used are gloomy, a lot of meaningful grey and black intermixed with some red shades. The artwork unites all song titles at once, you can find each one of them in this fabulous creation by Gundega Bārzdaine (visit her on Instagram).
For me, it is a clear recommendation to buy this EP as well as its predecessor.
You get to buy the EPs directly from the band’s website. (here)
Thank you to Ms Cesar Little aka Muumi-Katja and Cat Maverick for their amazing input