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Cities of Mars Rockets Psychedelic Doom to Space with “The Horologist”

cities of mars

Concept albums aren’t easy to pull off; concept bands are on an entirely different level. It can be difficult to commit to a single genre, not to mention a single theme or idea spread across years and countless compositions. Yet here is Gothenburg trio Cities of Mars, though, on their second full-length and fourth release overall, continuing the tale they began with their first single: that of Nadia, a Russian KGB agent/cosmonaut, sent on a covert mission to Mars in 1971 only to accidentally discover an ancient advanced civilization. All the band’s material to date has expanded and evolved the story, and in doing so has improved their own sound on each subsequent release. The Horologist finds Cities Of Mars reaching for the stars and finding purchase — stream the entire album below prior to its official Friday release.

Starting with eerie synth and an ominous ticking clock, opener “Necronograph” sets the template quickly: massive sky-born riffs, soaring vocals, thunderous drums, and epic tones of the gods. The bombast isn’t just welcome, it’s necessary; if your band is dedicated to a sci-fi alien conspiracy story with every song, it’s best to go big. Not everything is always turned up to maximum , though: just like a good story, there is ebb and flow, push and pull. Even within “Necronograph,” there are quiet, subtle moments in between the roars of space-thunder. That balance does solid work at keeping the listener interested and engaged. This and the following track “Trenches Of Bah-belon” recall an alternate dimension where Sleep is a bit more concise with their jams, or at least one where Elder put down Prog magazine and picks up High Times.

Also, “Inner Sanctum Outer Space” introduces a cinematic element to The Horologist, which may have been inevitable given the circumstances. It begins with some deceptively simple and laid-back classic rock-isms before giving way to one of the heaviest riffs of the album. It’s easy to imagine floating in a quiet, cold void only to find oneself moments later, standing at the steps of a gargantuan Martian mountain range, all while vocalist/bassist Danne Palm bellows across the landscape and guitarist Christoffer Noren channels David Gilmour at his most spacey. The only relative relief comes in the form of “Work Song,” a meditative interlude that while less massive than the rest of the album, still conveys a grandiose presence.

Ending the album, “Lines In The Dark” concludes with some variations on the band’s sound, introducing some off-kilter chords and a sense of impending dread not heard elsewhere. Is this perhaps a sign of things to come? Either way, with The Horologist, Cities Of Mars have the upper hand now.

The Horologist releaeses Friday via Ripple Music. Follow the band on Bandcamp.

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