I think it is fair to say that I have been enjoying the dark, delicious delights of Welsh band Tor Marrock pretty much since inception. They have now delivered three albums and I have caught them at a few shows, they play somewhat fleetingly and don’t exactly work that fast, ‘The Concept Of Self’ being their first new material since 2013 album ‘Destroy The Soul.’ Strong in both visual and musical identity it is evident straight away on pressing play here that I was being welcomed back into their arms, the guitar tones and textures of their music can only really belong to the one band. Gothic metal is the identifying form for those who need one and it is steeped in romance and dark desires but not of any frilly foppish sensibilities that is for sure. There is grit and gnarl behind the chugging bass, fuzz laden sound and gruff vocals here and opening number ‘The Belonging’ has a brooding heaviness about it as it powers in which along with the opening vocal line decreeing “I want you dead” may well have you very fondly remembering the ghost of Type O Negative.
They call their craft cellar metal and who am I to disagree, the video of this one goats, forests with burning pentagrams and circles of flames sums it all up nicely, a shadowy place with ghosts lingering in the moon enlightened darkness. The sexual and sensual witchcraft here definitely comes across. With a Sisters etched drum beat and grating guitar tone the late 80’s hangs like a shroud over songs such as ‘Sacrifice The Flesh’ things are kept fairly simply musically allowing you to concentrate nicely on the spell-casting vocals and soak up the melody which after a couple of listens kept coming back to me especially on certain songs. The lyrics give you the feeling that you have wandered into a Kill List type pagan rite and if you are in the wrong place you are doomed but equally captivated by some shimmering acoustic guitar parts like that at the gorgeous start of ‘Angel The Second Beast’ reminding fleetingly of The Eden House before the masculinity takes over. There is however the opposite side of that with a sweet duet counterpoised by singer Liv Free on ‘Let’s Make Love In The Dark.’ Yes that title may well give you preconceived ideas and indeed the song is kind of what you would expect from the title but somehow rather than being a cheesy ballad I would have expected to run screaming from there’s something witchy about it that definitely has some dark magic at its core. It’s a thin line to straddle though and others may feel completely different about the song and it could be looked at as a brave move for them to make.
There’s also something odd about ‘The Dark In Your Eyes’ and one gets the feeling that this could be quiet a personal album lyrically. The squealing metal guitar and hard hitting chorus is one of those songs I mentioned that gets really stuck in your head but there’s something almost errr Whitesnake about it and again I should be fleeing tail between legs. Somehow I don’t although I profess the album was not an immediate one to get to grips with I am now welcoming the song back like an old friend. ‘Sultress’ has a vampiric hunger and heaviness about it, going for the throat after the last couple of numbers, delivering “nocturnal pleasure” in more ways than one. The clattering drum and brash bruising delivery of ‘Summer In Italy’ does not make me feel like we have gone on a nice package holiday, trying to make out the lyrics I wonder if there could be some inspiration here from Pasolini and his brutal death. With the title track wrapping things in a cold dark burial gown and ravenous rasps giving it a perfect marriage of deliciousness and brutality the album has certainly intoxicated me. Tor Marrock are not an easy band though and if this is the first time you have heard them you may not find yourself having quite such an easy ride. Perhaps that is part of the appeal though and adventurous lovers of both metal and gothic music should definitely give this a listen and peel back the layers for themselves. Enchantment is but a heartbeat away.
(8/10 Pete Woods)