Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Duo does the heavy lifting on menacing metal album

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222She is, of course, a liar. Indeed, for a good 15 minutes before uttering the statement, the vocalist and guitarist for metal duo, Mares of Thrace, provides endless examples that contradict her claim.

Take, for starters, that Lanz will be taking something of a hiatus from the band after this current North American tour, in order to go to school in Chicago for video-game design. Or take, too, the knowledge that MacKichan's passion is collecting large spiders, reptiles and bugs: "Most people who see a cockroach or silverfish crawling up the wall of the house they're staying in lose their s . Stef got really excited and tried to capture it."

February marks 10 years the two have been making music together, in various bands and configurations. How did the Calgary friends celebrate such a momentous occasion?

"It's funny you should ask," Lanz says, laughing. "We went to In the Heat of the Night at the zoo, which is this romantic thing, where you get this lavish buffet dinner, and then all the zoologists talk about animal sex. We were the only people there who weren't old, and we were definitely the only same-sex couple there.... It was wonderful."

The musical duo have produced a Valentine for the rest of us: a dark, viscous, relentlessly foreboding strain of metal-meets-sludge rock. And a bloody great one it is, at that.

The Pilgrimage, Mares of Thrace's sophomore effort, was released in April on Canadian label Sonic Unyon Metal (home to such acts as Montreal's Voivod and Hamilton's Threat Signal). Reviews for the album in, and out, of the metal community have been uniformly glowing, save for, Lanz notes, some "Dutch guy" their publicist told them about. "He hated it so much, it was like the hatred of 10 lesser people," the singer says, almost in awe.

Recorded last year in Chicago, The Pilgrimage is an unabashedly and wonderfully strident album. Before hitting the studio, the duo hit the road to test the 10 songs that would eventually appear on the new album.

"I don't personally feel a song has been born properly until we've played it live a few times," says Lanz. "I also like people's reactions to it live."

Musically, Lanz says the band's sound falls on the metal side of things, but she also thinks Pilgrimage references bands such as Surgery, Helmet and Unsane, as much as it does Slayer.

Lyrically, there are the obvious dark themes, but there's also the mythological side of the record, most notably, the Christian imagery, which they think is backed up by the album's title.

"I think people are making more of a big deal out of that than I'd intended," Lanz admits. "It's more as if each song represents a little f ed-up character, and The Pilgrimage is their procession through my brain, as it were," she says.

If they don't quite conjure up that cast of weirdos for you, sonically speaking, they're more than happy to do it for you visually. The visceral video for the first single from the new album, The Perpetrator, allows MacKichan to indulge her creepy-crawly hobby.

"We were wondering, 'OK, how are we going to top the last (video)? How are we going to top disembowelling and torturing Stef's boyfriend?'" Lanz laughs.

With its pairing of food with bugs, their latest video is fittingly disgusting. "It seems to be garnering the kinds of reactions we wanted," says Lanz. "And there's only times in one's life that one gets to use the phrase, 'Maybe if we microwave the lasagna it'll make the maggots squirm harder.'"

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 5, 2012 G12

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