Album Premiere, Review & Interview: Mars Red Sky, Dawn of the Dusk

Mars Red Sky Dawn of the Dusk

Tomorrow, Dec. 7, is the release date for Dawn of the Dusk, the fifth full-length from Bordeaux, France, progressive heavy psychedelic rockers Mars Red Sky. Issuing through Vicious Circle Records and the band’s own Mrs Red Sound, it is their first LP since 2019’s The Task Eternal (review here), and it comes preceded by the earlier-2023 EP, Mars Red Sky & Queen of the Meadow (review here), which paired the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julian Pras, bassist/occasional-vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau with folk singer Helen Ferguson, otherwise known as Queen of the Meadow. A past and present collaborator with Pras in his and her solo work, she both fit with the band and delivered a standout lead vocal performance with Pras backing. “Maps of Inferno” — which along with an edit of itself and the B-side “Out at Large” completed the EP’s tracklisting — reappears on Dawn of the Dusk as well, as part of a multi-tiered opening salvo that feels like nothing so much as the band purposefully pushing themselves in different directions.

To wit, “Break Even” which was the first single from the album-proper, opens and leads into the aforementioned “Maps of Inferno,” which all the more threatens to dominate the record due its prior release on the EP — threading short- and long-players is a standing tradition for Mars Red Sky — and “The Final Round,” and each of those three songs has a different lead singer. And even in “Break Even,” which unfurls itself with a roll very much characteristic of Mars Red Sky‘s style, melding languidity and tonal heft, breadth in the mix with forward rhythmic turnings and a lyrical message that feels like perhaps it’s earned some of its cynicism in the Frank Sinatra-referencing lyrics “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere/Just what you’d be making exactly is anyone’s guess,” reassuring the listener that the band hasn’t ‘gone disco’ or some such while laying out the expanse of atmosphere in which the rest of the changes throughout the record will take place.

And it’s not just the first three songs that make up the vinyl’s A-side; it’s everything, but those first three songs are a clear example of Mars Red Sky‘s active participation in their creative growth. Pras takes “Break Even,” and while that’s the standard for the band, you can still hear them itching to try new ideas. The sweep into the chorus. The floating lead guitar near the end. Next, Ferguson steps in for “Maps of Inferno,” which is a landmark — as on Mars Red Sky & Queen of the Meadow, the collaboration cries out here for a full-length — and Kinast has a turn on “The Final Round.”

It’s not the first time he’s sung lead on a Mars Red Sky track, as one might recall “Marble Sky” from their 2011 self-titled debut (discussed herereview here), but if you’d like a convenient analogue for how much the band have grown in the 12 years since, a side-by-side of the two isn’t a terrible way to go. Here, Kinast is more confident. The construction of the song is broader. Its layers are dynamic. Its flow is psychedelic without losing its place or purpose. It goes somewhere. Not that these things weren’t true of “Marble Sky” — you will not hear me shit-talk that record, ever — but in concept and execution, Mars Red Sky‘s maturity has seen them become masters of a heavy, immersive rock that’s progressive not because it’s putting on a show of technique, though Matgaz patterns “Maps of Inferno” with subtle math, but because they build an instrumental like side B opener “A Choir of Ghosts” layer by layer with care and detail, mindful of their audience and how material might be perceived by their listenership, but always driving to balance that with an internal artistic chase — running, or rolling as with the riffs, after some idealized version of the thing, the sound, the song that’s perfect and always just ahead.

mars red sky (Photo by Jessica Calvo)

Side B has its own structure. The instrumental “A Choir of Ghosts”  leads into “Carnival Man,” which is the longest inclusion at 7:42 and downtrodden in its storytelling as it moves through the chorus toward the halfway point at about three minutes deep, the break to a long stretch of serene psych meandering taking hold for the next two-plus minutes. That’s step one.

Step two, “Trap Door” sets up “Slow Attack.”  The former is 46 seconds long and an acoustic intro for “Slow Attack” playing the next song’s central riff, quiet and unplugged, but they’re not kidding (though no doubt they’re having a bit of fun) when they call it “Trap Door” because it does feel very much like you’re being dropped into the penultimate cut as it bursts in at the start of a new measure and proceeds onward from there with stately march. Step three, the bottom drops out.

While not as much of a spectacle as “Maps of Inferno” or “The Final Round,” “Slow Attack” is quintessential Mars Red Sky. Again, Matgaz makes an intricate riff accessible through the drums. Kinast‘s bass winds beneath the chorus with an uptick in low end compared to the verse riff, which is more of a bounce as Pras delivers the title-line after the first chorus. And for step four, they finish with a wash that cuts back to the acoustic guitar, perhaps to shut the “Trap Door” behind them as they move on to the end of the record, but also to shift directly into “Heavenly Bodies,” which closes.

In a subdued reprise of “Slow Attack” on guitar and an arrangement that, while quiet and minimal-feeling is not at all the latter with Rhodes and maybe a broken piano, Ferguson returning to join Pras on ethereal vocals to enhance the ambient impression of “Heavenly Bodies” overall, which begins like a lullaby and comes to be consumed by static noise. Surprisingly harsh, almost machine-like, the noise swallows the melody and then settles itself into quick-fading static, like it was barely there to begin with. It’s not out of place, necessarily, and it’s fair enough that after spending the prior 39 minutes building a world of such vivid light and solidified ground and textures, they should be able to wipe the slate of Dawn of the Dusk and perhaps signal the arrival of nightfall.

Hopefully not. I’ve expressed a few times by now a concern that Dawn of the Dusk will be the last album from Mars Red Sky, a band I believe have more to say. Call me superstitious, but I believe in the subconscious, and when a group starts talking about endings, about circuses leaving town, about letting it be, “The Final Round” and so on, I get nervous. If this does end up being their last studio LP and touring cycle — and I don’t know that it is and I sincerely hope it isn’t — then Dawn of the Dusk serves as both a measure of how much the band have grown and flourished in their time together and of their desire to keep developing and trying new paths.

Both the familiar and not are reinforced, and even the curious structure of the two sides, the way each half develops its own personality, Dawn of the Dusk is a realized vision of Mars Red Sky‘s fluid chemistry, dynamic, malleable approach and psychedelic vision. They are a special, singular band.

[I was fortunate enough this week to talk to Pras, Gazeau and Kinast for a bit before a show in Germany on their current tour. The signal was spotty but the video of the interview follows here. Thanks if you check it out. The band’s remaining tour dates on this run (they’ll have more in 2024 and are confirmed for Ripplefest Texas in August), and other videos for the record follow as well.]

Mars Red Sky, Dawn of the Dusk interview, Dec. 5, 2023

Mars Red Sky on tour (remaining shows, more TBA):

mars red sky dawn of the dusk tour


07.12.2023 DE – DRESDEN, Chemiefabrik
08.12.2023 DE – JENA, KuBa
09.12.2023 DE – SIEGEN, Freak Valley Festival Winter Edition
19.01.2024 FR – AMIENS, 1001 Bières
20.01.2024 FR – ISSY-LES-MOULINEAUX, Le Réacteur
02.02.2024 FR – CHALON-SUR-SAÔNE, LaPéniche
03.02.2024 FR – STRASBOURG, La Laiterie
07.02.2024 FR – LYON, Marché Gare
10.02.2024 FR – CAEN, Big Band Café
17.02.2024 FR – PAU, La Ferronnerie
22.02.2024 FR – DIJON, Consortium Museum
23.02.2024 LU – MONDORF-LES-BAINS, Casino 2000
24.02.2024 NL – EINDHOVEN, Into The Void Festival
21.03.2024 FR – ANGERS, Le Chabada
22.03.2024 FR – SAINT-BRIEUC, Drakk Metal Fest
03.04.2024 FR – PARIS, Trabendo
01.06.2024 DK – ESBJERG, Esbjerg Fuzztival
07.06.2024 NL – LEEUWARDEN, Into The Grave Festival
14.06.2024 FR – LA ROCHE- SUR-YON, Quai M
19.09.2024 US – AUSTIN, Ripple Fest

Mars Red Sky, Dawn of the Dusk (2023)

Mars Red Sky, “The Final Round” official video

Mars Red Sky, “Break Even” official video

Mars Red Sky, “Maps of Inferno” official video

Mars Red Sky on Facebook

Mars Red Sky on Instagram

Mars Red Sky on Bandcamp

Mars Red Sky merch store

Mars Red Sky website

Mrs Red Sound on Facebook

Mrs Red Sound on Twitter

Mrs Red Sound on Instagram

Mrs Red Sound website

Vicious Circle Records on Facebook

Vicious Circle Records on Instagram

Vicious Circle Records on Bandcamp

Vicious Circle Records website

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