Artist: Mariana’s Rest
Album Title: Fata Morgana
Label: Napalm Records
Date of Release: 12 March 2021
I’ll admit that Mariana’s Rest are a new name to me despite this 2021 release entitled ‘Fata Morgana’ being their third full-length offering. But when you’re presented with a doom-infused melodic death metal album from Finland, which features the keyboardist from the peerless Omnium Gatherum, checking them out became a complete no-brainer. In fact, you start wondering why the band were never on your radar, particularly once the music on ‘Fata Morgana’ starts pouring from the speakers.
For those who share my unfamiliarity, Mariana’s Rest hail from the coastal town of Kotka in Finland, having formed back in 2013. They are a sextet comprised of vocalist Jaakko Mäntymaa, keyboardist Aapo Koivisto, guitarists Nico Mänttäri and Harri Sunila, bassist Niko Lindman, and drummer Nico Heininen. I guarantee, however, that if you share my weakness for melancholy, heaviness, and melody the way that only the Finns can deliver, you’ll not be a stranger to Mariana’s Rest for long.
For the past few months, I have craved this kind of music. Held hostage in our homes to a worldwide pandemic, with long dark nights to endure, ‘Fata Morgana’ is the kind of music that fits this reality perfectly, echoing the deep despair, sorrow, misery, and futility that such an existence can bring. It seems a little incongruous then, to be listening to something so melancholic as finally, the sun is streaming through the windows, a hint of spring cautiously creeps across the horizon, and we have some hope for an end to our enforced captivity before too long.
The response to that rhetorical musing is ‘yes’, or would have been under normal circumstances. But this would be failing to take into account the quality of the music on offer here. Adjectives such as ‘sublime’ and ‘beautiful’ leap to mind in equal measure, alongside ‘crushing’, ‘devastating’ and ‘brutal’. I wouldn’t, for one second, suggest that the music on ‘Fata Morgana’ is easy or simple, but it is refreshing to hear a band that has a clear direction and purpose, rather than over-complicating matters unnecessarily. Atmosphere, feeling and emotion sit at the heart of Mariana’s Rest’s modus operandi, and it’s fair to say that each of the eight songs delivers in spades. But there’s also a surprising amount of variety within the songs too. From dark to doom, from death to black, there are plenty of competing influences at play, some of which are so subtle that they take a few spins to notice.
Opener ‘Sacrificial’ is a fantastic way to open the album. It begins quietly, hauntingly, with a spoken word intro underpinned by minimalist keys. The intro is built on by bruising open chords alongside a mournful lead guitar melody before it settles into a mid-tempo affair, only to lower the pace even further into doom territory, Jaakko Mäntymaa’s vocals savage, not dissimilar to the likes of Omnium Gatherum. Acoustic guitars and piano enter as we’re treated to an unexpected quiet interlude from which a slightly more urgent pace emerges. This ebb and flow of pace is compelling, with My Dying Bride a firm reference during the slower passages, with nods towards Swallow The Sun at others. But present throughout to bind the song together is a gorgeous melody, one that grows in strength the more you listen.
My current favourite track comes next in the guise of ‘Glow From The Edge’, principally because the elegant and sorrowful melodies at play are arguably the best on the album. Again, this song begins slowly and delicately before unleashing some crushing guitar chords that resonate and in so doing, tingle the spine. But then, out of nowhere comes something even more majestic; the song picks up pace slightly and builds on the melody from the intro, with an enhanced poignant guitar lead, supplemented by the ethereal, angelic voice of Lindsay Schoolcraft (Antiqva, ex-Cradle Of Filth), subtly woven into the mix so as not to dominate, but to compliment. A spoken word section from Mäntymaa is captivating as it descends into tortured screams and growls, unleashing a torrent of frustration, anger, and sorrow. The juxtaposition between beauty and despair is tantalising, working wonders on me, sending further shivers up and down my spine.
The title track launches straight in to blackgaze territory thanks to the combination of majestic melody and tortured screams from Mäntymaa. It is both elegant and harsh, that blend that I find so compelling when done well, as is very much the case here. I don’t think that there is one song amongst the eight for which the description ‘elegant’ wouldn’t apply. For that matter, pick any track and words like ‘fragility’, ‘beauty’, ‘emotional’ are all justified at one point or another.
‘The Weight’ starts off in pure funeral doom territory, with the instrumentation barely registering on any speedometer you care to use. However, the atmospheres that are woven into the nine-minute track are poignant, emotional, and ethereal, Lindsay Schoolcraft once again lending her soft, melancholic voice as an inspired embellishment on top of a simple, dignified, but forlorn lead guitar melody.
Even the shorter, three-minute ‘Horrokseen’ wastes not a single second in making its presence known. The rich sounds of a cello can be heard from the outset, a solemn dirge into which is woven tantalising piano notes and the spoken word. Even as the intensity increases with the introduction of the metallic elements, the lonely piano remains at the song’s heart as once again atmosphere and emotion reign supreme.
When music is this emotionally charged and this beautiful, it cannot fail to speak to you. It speaks to me more and more eloquently with each passing listen, to the point where I find myself hopelessly and wonderfully emotionally invested. ‘Fata Morgana’ has, without question, catapulted Mariana’s Rest to another level. I fully expect their name to be on many more lips from now on and rightly so, because this is atmospheric doom-laden melodic death metal of the very highest order. ‘Fata Morgana’ is a magnificent body of work and worthy of each and every one of the accolades coming the band’s way.
The Score of Much Metal: 93%
Further reviews from 2021:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: