Marah – Angels Of Destruction! (2008): Review

marah

Label – Yep Roc

It seems like the last 12 months have bought out the spirituality of Marah leader Dave Bielanko. A self confessed alcoholic, he confronted his demons last summer and admitted himself to AA for support, understanding, and a chance to reinvent and refresh not only his general well being and health, but also to charge his musical energies. His biggest concern seemed that he had lost creative focus, detached himself from his band and audience, and the destructive gremlins that lay within the bottle were soaking his very system. The sobriety that he then undertook manifested in furious song writing, a commitment to creating something special for Marah’s next record. Originally the band were presented with 35 songs from either Bielanko or his brother Serge, and the intention was to deliver a triple album. Of course, triple albums by their very nature are a tough proposition to anyone but the diehards, so the “best” 11 were selected for “Angels Of Destruction!”

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Considering that the Philadelphians have been releasing material for a decade now, one immediately notices how fresh, reinvigorated and confident Marah sound. Most bands at this stage of their career are beginning to show the signs of creative meltdown, but the listener will be heartened that this isn’t the case on “Angels Of Destruction!” There are some noticeable reasons for the instant appeal of this recording. Bielanko’s sudden acceptance of his creative importance both in writing, and performing on record (Marah’s live credentials have never been doubted), the commitment to use interesting, different themes for the songs, such as spirituality, death, and guilt. The addition of a new member, multi instrumentalist Christine Smith, adds a new melodic dimension to many of these tunes. It all adds up to a quality mix of bar room Rock n’ Roll chug, with twists of Celtic earthiness (some songs remind me of early Waterboys), and warm New Orleans toodle doo to add to the spicy charm.

For instant highlights, look no further than the opener (and for me the outstanding moment), “Coughing Up Blood” with its insistent rhythm and fun vocal backing from the band, the killer chorus of “Old Time Ticking Away”, the contemplative “Blue But Cool”, and the two songs that close out the album, “Can’t Take It With You”, and “Wilderness” which is enhanced by the distant Bagpipes.

Flying high and occasionally inspired, much of “Angels Of Destruction!” sends a sound that can lift the heart and send us on a journey of pseudo discovery into Marah’s world…(or at the very least, their back catalogue).

7/10

Track Listing
1.Coughing Up Blood
2.Old Time Tickin’ Away
3.Angels on a Passing Train
4.Wild West Love Song
5.Blue But Cool
6.Jesus in the Temple
7.Santos de Madera
8.Songbirds
9.Angels of Destruction
10.Can’t Take it With You
11.Wilderness (contains a hidden track, Tippecanoe County Correctional Theme Park Blues)

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