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The Mire - Glass Cathedrals[2nd February 2014]

01. Penance
02. False Idol
03. Trance Monolith
04. Triple Gemini
05. Dark Sun
06. Glass Cathedrals
07. Embers
08. Pale Heart
09. Black Waltz
10. Stone Devils

The ringing of church bells mean many different things to many different people. To millions, they are a call to worship; the angelic voice of their god made corporeal. For others, they are a portent of oppression; a herald of falsities. They can be a musical instrument, a way of marking time, or even just the background noise on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The bells that book-end The Mire’s new record Glass Cathedrals are a little bit of all of these. The chimes of opener “Penance” are inarguably a summons, and whilst it may be presumptuous to call the album a religious experience, it certainly drips with something akin to divinity, and unlike many false gods, it returns the faith invested in it in many measures.

It also marks three years since the last major release from the quartet, and that is something of a crime. The road to Glass Cathedrals‘ release has not been an easy one; indeed, as Urbino croons in the title track, “…your dreams are like glass cathedrals; they fracture so easily.” Label troubles and behind-the-scenes disappointment led to a six-month gap between completion and release, leading to a rather unceremonious ‘dumping’ on Bandcamp one clear Sunday afternoon in February.

There’s a moment of hesitation just before “False Idol” kicks in which thrums with a brooding latency that is ever present from that moment; a dark energy that permeates the record. The track opens the first movement of Glass Cathedrals with two of The Mire’s arsenal flourished in their unsheathing; namely their ability to write absolutely gargantuan riffs, and the bludgeoning roar of guitarist/vocalist Robin Urbino, the band’s principal composer and frontman.

Urbino also handles all of the band’s recording and production, so The Mire are a veritable cottage industry of chunky, thoroughbred metal and lush attention to detail. You see, it’s not all throat-ripping heaviness; the bass often carries the rhythm alone, allowing the guitars to ascend with lighter purpose, such as on “Triple Gemini,” which exudes a very ISIS-like vibe. There’s melody and atmosphere aplenty, and never more so than in the centrally positioned title track, where the chimes return again to signal Glass Cathedrals‘ second movement. With this compositional diversity, it should not surprise you to find expansive, delay-heavy singing, and not just here, but throughout the album. It’s a fantastic dichotomy that has always marked The Mire’s sound; their 2011 EP II featured it in spades, and it is as powerful now as it was on older cuts like “The Nobleman.”

This diversity extends into the range of instrumentation used, too. Never one to shy away from orchestral sections, strings are present throughout, and there is delicate use of piano too, such as in the stunning interlude “Black Waltz” where both are put to haunting use. The track emulates the choral chant of Gregorian monks, and it’s a perfect set-up for ”Stone Devils,” the absolutely crushingly epic finale which takes all of the above and boils it down into six and a half minutes of post-metal magnificence.

Glass Cathedrals is an absolute triumph. It is at times brutish and oppressive, and at others utterly transcendental, but in every moment its masterful composition and melancholy tone disarm and amaze in equal measure. That we had to wait this long is a shame, but now it’s here, we find ourselves not as upset any more.