Haunting melodies and cerebral harmonies that challenge listeners to think outside of the box comprise the whole of The Mere, a posthumous release from The Empty Mirror, and more explicitly, it’s mastermind in Grant Huling. In commemoration of his former band’s ten year anniversary, Huling took it upon himself to complete their storied unfinished album, resulting in the nine progressively stylized songs we find on The Mere. The music here is somewhat understated compared to the lyricism skewing it, but without a doubt it’s still the sonic tour de force that matches anything fans could have asked for. As chilling as it is brooding and evocative, The Mere is the final piece of an enigmatic artistic puzzle that has finally been solved once and for all.
Songs like “Clownishness,” the title track and “All Stems (Ready to Fast-Forward Now)” are steeped in surrealism from top to bottom, embracing their postmodern side and willfully experimenting with the musical limitations of the band’s eclectic sound. Even when the grooves at their most rigid, these tracks are nevertheless saturated in a faint, ominous psychedelia that is impossible for us to escape, no matter where we look within the arrangement of the instruments. “Fatehandler (For an Insignificant Man)” and “Breakfast at Midnight” are almost muted in the delivery of their lush melodies, but their underlying texture still manages to find its way to the surface of the mix and shape the mood of the music into a beautiful, engaging spiritual entity in its own right.
Part of the larger narrative in The Mere is told through these aforementioned textures, such as in the sublime “Inedia (Naked Girl),” “Keep it Real” and “Thinking in Tongues,” while in other situations the substance of the lyrics is straightforward enough to paint a vivid picture for us. “All Stems (Ready to Fast-Forward Now)” is the longest song on the record, clocking in at a modest four minutes, but like all of the material that it sits beside, it has a streamlined, agile feel inspired by the fluidity of its construction. The ultimate irony is that The Empty Mirror’s unfinished LP is possibly representative of their greatest creative breakthrough, but a lot of credit has to be given to Grant Huling, who resurrected these rough cuts from the ashes and gifted them to a generation of listeners that need to hear this band at their best.
Surprisingly emotional and wickedly addictive from start to finish, The Mere is a swan song from a group that never got the recognition from critics that they deserved in life, but can now find a sincere appreciation from audiences in death. In a lot of ways, the dark, hollow tonality of this record echoes the story of The Empty Mirror itself; the complexities of the music are overwhelming to put it mildly, but to be denied the genuine bliss of experiencing this album in its complete state would be a shame of epic proportions. The bottom line? Give this record the spin it’s been waiting for – I have a feeling you won’t regret it.