On Lunar Highlands – CD // DD
Pepper Shaker Records – Releases December 6, 2017
Reviewed by Eric Layhe
Frank Attard: Drums, percussion, Clavinet, synth, meandering chaos
Paul Attard: Guitars, bass, synth, banjo-mandolin, piano, organ, complications
Dave Schembri: Vocals, harmonica, mellow vibes
Matthew Slager: Lead guitar on ‘Never Fail’
Wrecker’s Reunion Ball (5:00)
Lost Planet Airmen (4:34)
Bean Stalkin’ (0:28)
Thought It Best To Cut You Loose (5:33)
Soap Bar Pick-Up Joint (3:41)
The Stalwarts of Saltwort Castle (9:31)
The Working Mind of the Creator (3:44)
Woodhollow Green (12:55)
Bean Stalkin’ Again (0:56)
Never Fail (4:13)
Bigger Than Fear (5:44)
On Lunar Highlands (8:35)
The Heavy Hand Of The Destroyer (4:14)
Sludge Metal can go in any one of many directions, and one of the most interesting just may be the original: The variety of Sludge both invented and perfected by Black Sabbath. That particular brand of Sludge Metal is heavily Blues-influenced and totally unafraid to incorporate highly experimental elements like irregular time signatures, tempo changes, and long complicated instrumental sections in a manner that is almost progressive. This style of music has existed since the late 70s and one of its latest disciples is Australia’s Mother Mars, and they exemplify it fantastically in their newest release, On Lunar Highlands.
As a listener will easily pick up on while making their way through the album, Mother Mars makes no attempt to pigeonhole themselves. They open with some sludgey goodness on “Wrecker’s Reunion Ball”, but they weave their way through several different styles like early-era Queens of the Stone Age-style desert rock on “Lost Planet Airmen” Psychedelic Folk on several songs, most prevalent in the interlude “Bean Stalkin’” and its brother-in-arms “Bean Stalkin’ Again”, and expertly execute a song that sounds like a long-lost B-side from Black Sabbath’s Paranoid in album high point “The Stalwarts of Saltwort Castle” (stream below).
While Mother Mars is an extremely skilled band, they really show their true talent when their songs are heavier and longer. When Mother Mars give themselves room to breathe, their songs gain an organic energy that is nearly second to none, especially when they decide to allow themselves what is a particularly decadent instrumental section full of guitar solos, bass riffs, and plenty of interplay between the band’s members.
Additionally, there are only 3 members of Mother Mars, though you’d never guess it from listening to them. These Heavy Space Rockers are incredibly adept at filling a space with as much noise as it needs to sound full and heavy without making it sound unnecessarily chaotic. It is chaotic, to be fair, but as Mother Mars proves, chaos is not always directionless. As the band simulates what can only be described as the sonic equivalent of a Solar Storm, they always make sure to include a clearly understandable sense of direction, as the songs always make sense, as a band full of gentlemen this talented should. If you are interested in Bluesy, Spacey, Sonic-adventurous Sludge Metal, and you have 70 minutes to kill, look no further than Mother Mars’ “On Lunar Highlands”. It is skillful, it is eclectic, and most importantly: it is heavy.