With autumn approaching, new releases from Listenable Records are arriving fast and furious, or in the case of Bordeaux trio ‘Mars Red Sky’, mellow as all hell and so laid back it’s practically horizontal. If you’ve not managed to hear any of their music before, over the last decade they’ve been honing their own highly recognisable sound, and they have now reached a new zenith with ‘The Task Eternal’.
The opening fuzzed out drone of ‘The Proving Ground’ for a few bars seems to offer what could be another cookie-cutter slab of stoned out weed worship, but rather than fall into that all too sweet and sticky trap, when the ethereal vocals kick in a whole new element joins the music, adding a Proggy psychedelic element that elevates the track to a new level. Yes, the ingredients that would make the band a perfect fit at the likes of Freak Valley or HRH Stoner vs Doom are there in abundance, with a slow slogging beat and drawn out guitar solo, but there is so much more to the character of the track that frankly I could fill the entirety of my allotted review space waxing lyrical about it, complete with comparisons to early Pink Floyd, and have no room for the rest of the album.
‘Collector’ follows with a more insistent riff in which the bass dominates proceedings, but again, rather than drowning out all with a low tone, it acts as a counterpoint for the light harmonised voices. I found myself wondering if this is what it would sound like if Electric Wizard recruited Jon Anderson of Yes to take on vocal duties to allow Jus Osborn to concentrate on taking his guitar sound back to 1972. That said, I don’t know if such an impossible collaboration would result in any song as concise and self-contained as this four-minute thirteen slice of goodness. Things get far more epic with the following ‘Recast’ and spiritual and anagrammatic instrumental sibling ‘Reacts’, the riff taking charge for each of the seven minute plus neck wreckers, even more so on the latter, with the addition of complex and catchy drum runs that put paid to the myth of the simplicity of being the percussionist in a stoner band; this is playing that many a technical act would be happy to add to their repertoire.
The mellow returns and takes over on ‘Crazy Hearth’, complete with a closing guitar solo that sounds like it was delivered by a young and hungry Dave Gilmour, whilst some sludge invades the opening instrumentation of ‘Hollow King’, albeit the sound grows and develops into a piece that may just have escaped from the court of the Crimson King. This ever developing and evolving sound, something that has earmarked their prior releases continues even within this one album, ‘Soldier On’ being infused with a confident rocky swagger throughout despite the band mixing ephemeral wisps of Space rock amongst the beats. The whole is then rounded out by the gentle outro of ‘A Far Cry’, giving the listener a chance to contemplate and absorb what they have just experienced. If you are anything like me (in musical tastes at least as I’m a right fugly sod!), the only correct reaction to the last few chords is to hit replay.
This is an album that stalwarts of so many of the sub-genres of rock and metal could claim as their own: Prog fans will latch onto the obvious love of the likes of Pink Floyd and King Crimson; Stoners will bliss out on the epic fuzz; doom merchants will dig the heavy bass; whilst fans of psychedelia will trip out on the seventies inspired goodness. However, rather than sound simply derivative, Mars Red Sky have built something unique and special, their sound continuing to evolve and grow, a continuing quest that is surely ‘The Task Eternal.’