02. False Idol
03. Trance Monolith
04. Triple Gemini
05. Dark Sun
06. Glass Cathedrals
08. Pale Heart
09. Black Waltz
10. Stone Devils
Post-metal and sludge as we know it are generally associated with meandering and complicated song structures, ever evolving in tone and atmosphere with little in the way with repeating segments. That was until 2009, when Brighton, UK based group The Mire — who were born out of the brief dissolution of Bossk — took the genre’s melancholic atmosphere and massive riffs and made them work in the context of condensed pop-inspired song structures and vocal hooks with their EP Volume I, beating The Ocean‘s 2010 game-changer Heliocentric to the punch. 4-minute tracks with cleanly-sung refrains were nearly unheard of in the genre, and to no surprise, the formula works; The Mire strive to bring emotion, soul, and immediacy into a genre that has all the potential to be deeply resonant with not just the mind, but the heart as well.
Although their first proper full-length album Glass Cathedrals experiences brief flings with the expansive songwriting of post-metal greats such as Cult of Luna and Isis, much of the material follows in suit of the previous line of tracks from Volume II. ‘False Idol’ for instance kicks off the album with only a couple of riffs and a chorus so heartbreaking that it’s chilling. The following track ‘Trance Monolith‘ forgoes the clean singing, but clocks in at four minutes of Meshuggah-esque groove. The clear and concise songwriting helps the band maintain a plateau of intensity while burning bright and fast even at typical sludge tempos.
Still, this is very much a progressive album on its full scale. Much of Glass Cathedrals flows seamlessly between tracks making for a brilliant continuous listening experience, moving between passages of melancholia without pause. The band does allow ample time for reflection though; spacious instrumental sections open up in ‘Triple Gemini’ and ‘Dark Sun’ that build off drum and bass grooves and hypnotic chord progressions. The album’s title track takes on more of a minimalistic post-rock ambiance, as a distant Robin Urbino croons over reverb and delay in ascendancy before delving into the crushing howls and searing pick-scrapes of ‘Embers.’
What makes The Mire such a stand out act in the genre is the incredible vocals from Urbino. His delivery of the album’s moody subject matter is so convincing that whether singing in ethereal cadence or bellowing in gravelly roars, the emotion in his voice is remarkable. In fact, its his cleans during the record’s many hooks that allow for Glass Cathedrals to be such a satisfying listening experience, and the album could have been heightened by an even more frequent use. While his best choruses have long been written and compiled in Volume II, even the tracks that feature no cleans on Glass Cathedrals are mighty earworms.
It’s easy to get excited with the surplus of the new releases as 2014 finally kicks into gear, but it’s hard not to put Glass Cathedrals on a pedestal. This is an album that has been anticipated around these parts for the last four years, and it manages to do what few can with that amount of pressure and hype. Despite its anti-climactic release wherein the band dropped the album on Bandcamp without prior notice, Glass Cathedrals is a monumental record packed with near-ethereal grandeur. It’s going to take a lot to topple this album from the year-end lists around here come December, that’s for sure.
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