When Mary – Tainted


A record to be proud of…

Now available on Sonicbond via Nova Records and heard with genuine appreciation by Paul Quinton

Introductions first, When Mary is a project involving Trude Eidtang, former vocalist with Norwegian Progressive/Art Rock band White Willow, and ‘Tainted’ is their second release. It’s a concept album of sorts, although the band themselves describe as ‘shaped like a German song cycle’, and is inspired by the classic tale of Faust and his path to damnation. The band are also comprised of Christian Paulsen and Vidar Uthaug, who, along with Trude, provide almost all of the instruments, including the electronic rhythm parts. Reading the press release before listening to the album, it suggests that it covers a lot of styles and genres, including classical music and the blues and mixes art pop and trip hop with elements of symphonic rock. That is undoubtedly a bit of a mixture, and to be honest left me a bit unsure of what I was about to hear.

Opener ‘Prelude (Meine Ruh Ist Hin) – ‘My Peace Is Gone’ for the non-German speakers among us – begins with a tolling church bell before Trude’s voice comes in, multitracked and using a variety of different singing styles, reminding me of the Mediaeval Baebes in full voice. The effect is startling and draws you in straight away, and although the track is less than two minutes long, it’s a brilliant start to the album. It’s followed by an equally good song, ‘Soothing Stitches’, which mixes progressive rock and electronica with almost the same kind of impact Pure Reason Revolution achieved in the latter part of their career. The PRR comparisons also apply in regard to the vocals on ‘Tainted’ which are brilliantly arranged and performed. Another instrumental interlude, ‘Ist Mir Das Grab’ (‘This Is My Grave’) follows, built around multi tracked keyboards, before ‘Wings of Wax’, on which the vocals are again tremendous, and which uses the keyboards to give the song an unusual, almost folky feel.

‘Out of Spaces’ is the most ambitious song on the album so far, with so much going on it could easily be too much to take in, but it’s so carefully and cleverly arranged, it remains very listenable, and even in a comparatively straightforward and gentle song like ‘Eternity’ the use of the various backing racks to create the atmosphere of the song before a more aggressive and discordant chorus creates tension is excellently done

Good as it is, the main criticism of the album is that the last third of the album doesn’t have the same impact as what has gone before. ‘Frequency’ is a little too minimalist and sedate, although again, Trude’s multi part vocals are excellent, at least until the more traditional rock section, and then the longest and most adventurous track on the album brings it to a close. ‘Postlude (Wo Ich Ihn Nicht Hab)’ (‘Where I Don’t Have Him) begins with a classical vocal, in the same vein as early Within Temptation, as if we’re in for some more straightforward symphonic rock, before the track goes into a far more unconventional structure, While it is the most complicated and adventurous arrangement on the album, possibly that complexity works against it; as the track moves through its various parts quite briskly, it never seems content to allow each part to settle into your consciousness before it moves somewhere else, and so there’s no sense of continuity, or allowing the song to take you along with it. I won’t ever criticise a band for being too ambitious, but sometimes that ambition makes it harder for a track to become memorable.

When this album is good, it is very good, and if the band’s ambition sometimes gets the better of itself, you cannot fault them for trying something different. It’s complex, fascinating, brilliantly played and sung, Trude Eidtang in particular is superb, and hugely enjoyable, and the band have made a record to be proud of.

When Mary – TaintedTrack List:

  1. Prelude (Meine Ruh Ist Hin)
  2. Soothing Stitches
  3. Interlude (Ist Mir Das Grab)
  4. Wings Of Wax
  5. Out Of Spaces
  6. Eternity
  7. Wonderful Warning
  8. Frequency
  9. Postlude (Wo Ich Ihn Nicht Hab)