Glass Cathedrals: mix of sludge doom, alt-rock and post-metal describing disillusion and disappointment

The Mire, Glass Cathedrals, self-released CD Digipak (February 2014)

First off, I should say there are two English bands with almost the same name: there is a northern English (Manchester-based) black metal act called Mire and then there is a southern (Brighton-based) doomster band The Mire. Good thing the southerners got the definite article in there as these fellows have been slow in releasing studio work – they have had label problems apparently and of this time of writing were unsigned – but they did manage to get their debut album with the eye-catching cover artwork (ha ha) out in early 2014.

This debut full-length demonstrates The Mire’s ability to write and play massive heavy-duty pounding riffs backed by very deep steel bass melodies (which come to the fore on most tracks) and some excellent percussion that generally supports the guitars and bass. The album begins properly with Track 2 “False Idol” which showcases the band’s style in a nutshell: a mix of sludge-doom metal, alternative rock, post-metal melancholy and something of a hardcore sensibility in the singing which alternates between clean-toned choirboy-like on the one hand, and something grittier and tensed up on the other. Most of the time the guitars hit hard and powerfully with concrete-block riffs. Lead guitar solos can be surprisingly light and fleet-footed and there are plenty of moments where the bass shapes the music and takes a lead melodic role. There is some tremolo guitar in a few songs.

As the album progresses, listeners will note that most songs are self-contained, each one potential singles material if the band were so inclined to milk the songs for all they’re worth. Sorrowing emotion, loss of hope and a strong sense of vulnerability can be very strong in amongst the hard-hitting slabs of music. An ambience approaching near-psychedelic with sparkling lead guitar soloing takes an unexpected turn into bleak darkness on “Triple Gemini” and the song turns out to be quite complex in its emotion if occasionally losing its focus. “Embers” features some unusual but very effective key changes in its bass riffing. “Pale Heart” reveals unexpected tenderness in the music that sits well with the hard outer shell of rumbling steel bass and shriek ragged vocal.

This is one of those albums where most tracks are so good that listeners will disagree as to which songs are better than others. The standard is such that even very average songs here have some outstanding qualities whether in technical execution, the realisation of mood or atmosphere, or song-writing flair. Perhaps the weakest part of the album – not that we can tell from the music – might be in the narrow range of lyrical subject matter: the lyrics are very intensely personal and speak of personal disillusionment and disappointment, and the fragility of hope. No doubt the musicians poured their frustrations with their label into the music which must have been a form of therapy for them.

After hearing this album, I have to sympathise with The Mire that in spite of the excellence of this work, they still don’t have a deal and this recording is begging for a distributor. Some folks might suggest the band members are being “difficult” but we should reserve judgement on the musicians’ behaviour at this stage if what they want their music to be respected on its own terms. If enough readers here were to take the time and look up this album to hear it for themselves, and decide whether “Glass Cathedrals” deserves a wider hearing enough, that they lobby various labels to pick it up, then this review will have done its job.

Contact: The Mire (Bandcamp page)