What makes a pilgrimage different from a journey is the implicit process of transformation. For Thérèse Lanz of Calgary doom-noise duo Mares of Thrace, 2012 is all about movement and change. The vocalist and baritone guitarist will tour North America with drummer Stef MacKichan, then move to another country and pursue a new course of education.
The Pilgrimage is Mares of Thrace's second album, following 2010's The Moulting. Their first effort was also influenced by ideas of transfiguration, but unlike The Moulting's internal drive, The Pilgrimage is about outward movement, seeking a catalyst for change within a larger environment. The duo's sound has evolved to match this thematic shift, becoming more urgent and compelling, as aurally rich as it is lyrically aching.
Lanz hoped to capture many of the scars and imperfections that resulted from recording The Pilrimage. "You can hear my hand scraping on the strings," she says, "and you can hear the pickups shrieking because we were running way more gain than was appropriate for them. You can hear me take a deep breath before screaming." These sounds become aural brushstrokes, evidence of the hand of the musicians and producer, Sandford Parker, at work.
Lyrically, Lanz says that she was inspired by both classic and contemporary narratives of personal journey, in particular by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Just as each Chaucer tale is named after a different narrator, "each of the titular people in the songs is a fucked up little character in my mind." Lanz also drew upon the pilgrimage that young Quarians (an alien species) all undertake as a coming of age rite in the Mass Effect universe, wherein they leave their home fleet and do not return until they are able to bring back something of value.
"That's how I'm looking at moving," Lanz admits, as she prepares for her journey to study video game design in Chicago, IL. After what she describes as a turbulent 2011, Lanz began to ask, "What is a good life?" Now, about leaving, she says that, "what I hope to find is life. I think to grow as humans, we need to get very far out of our comfort zones. There's not much worth having that doesn't come without a giant bloody struggle."
For Lanz, a great deal of the forthcoming challenges will result from her separation from drummer and dear friend MacKichan. "We're like those two old guys from The Muppet Show, Statler and Waldorf. We've spent a decade growing into and around each other," Lanz says. While it will be a time of difficulty, she's counting on Mares of Thrace and making music to sustain her. "Music is my psychic dumpster." And does she see touring as part of this journey? "Touring is like a magical pilgrimage to the land of liver damage, so maybe not about bringing back a better version of yourself."