The Task Eternal by Mars Red SkyRelease date: September 27, 2019
Label: Listenable Records
When I first listened to The Task Eternal, the fourth album from Bordeaux stoner rockers Mars Red Sky, I couldn’t help but think this is what Abba would sound like if they were a sludge band. This was before the realisation that there aren’t actually any females in Mars Red Sky. Apologies to long term fans but the band are new to me and what a glorious place to start! I am enthralled by that sweet beautiful voice belonging to Julien Pras and his sublime guitar skills, ably backed with the joyful tones of bassist Jimmy Kinast and dexterous drumming of Mathieu Gazeau. Recorded in a medieval castle by Brazilian engineer Gabriel Zander, the sound on this album is absolutely huge.
Right from the start with opener ‘The Proving Grounds’, the riffs simply ooze with thick wondrous sludgy goodness as Julien and Jimmy wrap gorgeous honeyed tones around them to form a perfect slab of pristine sludge pop. That chorus can do no wrong as it pitches up a melody that is effortless and uplifting. Jimmy’s deep bass provides a pulsating groove to allow Julien’s guitars to tease out some delicate licks amongst the monstrous riffage. Head twisting warped riffs are the order of the day on ‘Collector’ and Julien and Jimmy’s vocal interplay is a thing of refined beauty. I’m in total awe of Mars Red Sky and their stunning ability to morph heavy rock and melodic pop in this mesmerising way. The psychedelic elements leave you in a transcendent state such is the power of the music.
Easing back on the sludge momentarily ‘Recast’ begins creepily before settling into a deep groove and a minor key heaven as Julien’s way with a tune elevates to a higher place. Despite sounding like a band lost in a 70s time warp the music is fresh, utterly engaging and as this song ebbs away, as heavy as fuck. The seam between ‘Recast’ and ‘Reacts’ is perfectly stitched as the band launch headlong into a blistering charge of rumbling riffs and a tree felling bass groove. Elements of prog rock infiltrate before Julien easily shifts into a lazy blues solo and it’s like listening to a different band.
You aren’t sure where ‘Crazy Hearth’ is headed after the initial sequence of playful riffs. Julien adds a scintillating verse as the riffs are turned down. Then you get hit with the most gorgeous heart breaking melody by way of the chorus, that has me in bits. The swelling interlude of voices that primes the final series of soothing choruses is a total killer and then when Julien slips in a sumptuous solo it completes one of the songs of the year.
The bumping grooves of ‘Hollow King’ find Julien really going for a toned down Perry Farrell vocal style, my fixation with Jane’s Addiction possibly underpinning my intrigue with Mars Red Sky more than I realise. Indeed, the breakdown section in this song echoes some of Dave Navarro’s mellower guitar work. You nearly miss Mathieu’s superb fluid drumming underneath the writhing guitars. It is truly a minor miracle that a band this heavy can be so wondrously melodic with tunes that most pop bands would kill for.
The first track to really notify you of the country of origin of Mars Red Sky is ‘Soldier On’, which is bursting with marvellous film noir melodies and choral voices. I can visualise a vintage sports car driving round a twisty Alps mountain side at the start of some random spy movie. Of course, the massive crunchy riffs and humongous bass throb undertow would suggest otherwise! So we settle down to the closure of the album with the mellow instrumental ‘A Far Cry’, featuring gently strummed acoustic guitars and searing guitars that provide a haunting arrangement. The musicality here is a few hundred miles away from the rest of the album but showcases the spectrum of ability that this talented trio have.
This album took me completely by surprise, as I said at the outset, Mars Red Sky are a new band to me and some investigative listening to their back catalogue (to be continued) tells me I have been missing out. The Task Eternal is an outstanding album perfectly melting stunning melodies and thick and heavy sludge/stoner riffs. The songs are infectious, catchy and Julien’s voice is angelic and mesmerising with every word he sings. This could be many people’s gateway to heavier music or alternatively a redirection to lighter pastures for some, a true crossover album. Magnifique.