REVIEW/ALBUM STREAM: Singapore Stoner/Doom Metal Marijannah Unleash New Full Length

BAND: Marijannah (Singapore)
RELEASE: Istanah (2020)
LABEL: Cursed Tongue Records
REVIEWER: Arthur Urquiola

When Marijannah came out with their crushing debut ‘Til Marijannah’ last year, there was a bit of curiosity among those that heard who exactly was in the band. With members of notable Singapore acts like Grindcore warriors Wormrot and emotive Punk Rockers The Caulfield Cult, while it’s naive to think that musicians can only be truly passionate for one style of music and perhaps, best “stay in their lane”, Stoner Doom is an altogether different tempo and vibe to the aforementioned pursuits. If this group was going to do it right, they couldn’t just “try out” this new genre and expect to succeed at sounding legitimate. At the same time, if this project was simply an exercise in nailing tried and true conventions, they could easily have been written off as derivative, or worse, a cynical cash-in at a time when groups like Thou, Pallbearer and Bell Witch were all gaining notoriety.

Testament to the band’s talents and genuine passion for the music, ‘Til Marijannah’ rose above being the product of a whimsical side project to win the kind of praise from international outlets like Revolver and Metal Injection not commonly bestowed upon acts from Singapore – aside for maybe guitarist Rasyid Juraimi’s other band Wormrot. Pitchfork placed the record among that year’s top five Stoner Metal highlights and it was a featured album in its overall coverage of Metal. Locally, the record found itself on a number of the year’s best ofs, including those of TimeOut and Bandwagon. The band further solidified its status with some highly anticipated first live shows, a tour with Australia’s POTION and an opening slot on Sludge pioneers EYEHATEGOD‘s Singapore date. Marijannah had established a winning sound and had a well-received record under their collective belt to prove it.

But there’s something about the opening riff that kicks off Marijannah’s second collection of songs ‘Istanah’, that hits listeners instantly with a sense the band would not simply be picking up where ‘Til Marijannah’ left off. Where that record’s opening track ‘1974’ came crashing down in an epic fashion to set the overall tone of the record, ‘Bloodsucker’ sees the band building around a jittery riff that underpins a more upbeat gallop through much of the track. It takes more from Stoner Rock’s ’70s roots than many of their contemporaries’ meditations on slower tempos. The band’s trademark vocal harmonies however, have safely remained intact in the transition between records and work as a familiar point of reference here.

There’s a bass-heavy rumble framing ‘1966’, along with some killer duelling guitar harmonies and occult lyrical vibes. The melodic vocal hooks and harmonies seem more present and there’s a tightness and confidence in the use of melody. Rather than slow builds to densely layered refrains, there are nimble-fingered guitar solos trading off one another before the drums fade out for a false ending. The drums come back in again and the song ends (or falls apart) only when it absolutely needs to. It’s like we’re all sitting in on one of the band’s jam sessions. By contrast, ‘Full Moon’ is Marijannah’s first sub-two minute song, but feels more like an intermission to break up the vast terrain covered on ‘Istanah’, as opposed to some kind of half baked last-minute addition.

‘Shapeless’ sounds a little closer to the band’s earlier efforts, but with more grit and swagger. There’s a playful snarl to the vocals too. It’s as if the band now understands that it no longer has to establish itself as a “serious” act and can have some fun playing up Classic Rock cliches to make a statement in of itself. ‘Spiderwalk With Me’ has an almost theatrical shift between the dramatic flourishes and mid-tempo Rock. It can make a case for being the heavier, fuzzed out offspring of ‘Hocus Pocus’.

In another callback to the first record, drummer and lyricist Nicholas Wong still takes inspiration from classic Horror works. This time Rosemary’s Baby, Dracula and The Thing all get a nod, but more often they’re love songs, sang from the darker and kitschy corners of culture and not a regurgitation of plot beats.

Gigantic closer ‘Pluto’ is the most overtly Doom Metal song here, with its celestial themes and blackened opening progression. It’s also the most Sabbath-like. The band almost outdo the great ones with a climactic ending that slows the tempo down even further to a menacing craw, punctuated by feedback and (what sound like) gong strikes.

Marijannah managed to overachieve right out the gate with their stunningly well-crafted debut. In tackling a followup, their approach has shifted to something a little looser, colourful and even more “rocking”. Rather than attacking crescendos with washed-out and soaring harmonies, individual voices shine with personality and character. In the place of meticulously hammered-out transitions, they’re getting more mileage out of fewer, but nonetheless still highly imaginative ideas and riding them to previously uncharted territory, giving each song its own individual journey. The band starts from a sound they already found a comfortable space in the first time round and end somewhere closer to the Stoner Rock end of the spectrum than the Doom Metal side of things. Ultimately, while ‘Til Marijannah’ was the impactful statement of intent, ‘Istanah’ covers more ground and will reward the repeated listens it’s sure to get more of.

The band has already announced a record release show in Singapore to take place February 7, 2020. Keep up to date here: is an underground Asian music news website created for the sole purpose of supporting our own world. We support all bands and genres HOWEVER we do not support nor have any sympathy for homophobic, racist, sexist rhetoric in lyrical content or band material. UNITE ASIA!