Duo does the heavy lift­ing on men­ac­ing me­tal al­bum

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - THE SOCIAL PAGE - By Mike Bell

AS­SURE you that we’re dread­fully bor­ing in real life,” Thérèse Lanz says of her­self and her band­mate, Stef Mac­kichan. She 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.’”

HAND­OUT PHOTO

Mares of Thrace: Mac­kichan, left, and Lanz.

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