Review: “Self​-​Destruct. Survive. Thrive!” by MĀRA

It’s not often that a band from the Baltic Region appears on our radar but following the success of both Jinjer and Infected Rain in recent times, the rise of the critically acclaimed MĀRA from Riga, Latvia is an intriguing one. The quartet, who comprise vocalist Māra Lisenko, guitarist Denis Melnik, bassist Dmitry Lisenko and drummer Alberts Mednis earned the 2018 Album Of The Year and Best Vocalist Awards for their debut “Therapy For An Empath” in the Latvian Metal Music Awards. Combining elements of Death Metal, Thrash and Groove Metal, the band was established in 2018 and have already played tours and summer metal festivals all across Europe- Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Latvia and supported the likes of Sepultura, Krisiun, Satyricon and Bloodywood.

There is a certain pressure that comes with the immediate success of a debut record, to keep the momentum up and move to the next level. Setting the tone with a Soulfly esq folk or traditional piece in “Intro (Mīļā Māra)” which acts as a pallette cleansing moment before the piano lead into “Leaking Guilt” is an interesting move and reminder of the bands roots. The first track proper, which has a “Bleigh!” moment with its opening riff build, before the first verse kicks in, is a classic piece of hybrid Metal with eerie off kilter and unhinged clean vocals and some brutal uncleans from Lisenko. Her vocal blends the tones you will have heard from the likes of Lena Scissorhands of Infected Rain and Lauren Hart from Once Human and she has impressive range that creates an atmospheric that the rest of the band build on. “Beauty Of Humanity” which features a guest vocal appearance from Björn Strid of Soilwork fame has the same punchy guitar and bass riff styles that you might find on a Butcher Babies track and within its bouncy structures there are pieces of melody that add texture and contrast while Lisenko’s vocals are again incredible.

Bringing in some breakneck speed Thrash with “Religionipulation” which sees Lisenko spitting her rage with uncaged fury despite a requirement to drop slow down by ten percent for the chorus parts. It has some buried electronics which underpin everything nicely and nuance out over each listen, growing in their statute to create a stand out track. Those bleed into the introduction of “Life Kills (Fear)“, which was chosen as a single and got the full music video treatment and give it a Slipknot esq vibe. That is bolstered by Mednis who has a colossal drum sound on this cut and is a precision operated machine throughout. A big  sing-a-long chorus of this track, which isn’t as cleanly sung as some other vocal parts on the EP is clearly the reason for its choice, but critically the band don’t sell themselves out for it and it works. “Don’t Look Back In Grief” features a guest appearance from Jeff Hughell of Six Feet Under, who has also appeared in Brain Drill, Vile and Rings Of Saturn. A tension filled heavy hitter of a track, which features a buried solo of climbing and soaring imagination in it’s closing is an instant slow headbanging winner. It builds the theatrics with some whispered vocal parts and eerie synths to counterpart the mid tempo chugs and barrel roll kit work that batters you into submission and should find pride of place in their live set [8/10]

Track listing

  1. Intro (Mīļā Māra)
  2. Leaking Guilt
  3. Beauty Of Humanity (ft. Björn Strid of Soilwork)
  4. Religionipulation
  5. Life Kills (Fear)
  6. Don’t Look Back In Grief (ft. Jeff Hughell of Six Feet Under)

Self​-​Destruct. Survive. Thrive!” by MĀRA is out now and available over at bandcamp

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