Sensory Overload: Prog-metal crew Mairin undergoes a transformation at Tree Bar

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From the November 7, 2013 edition

Mairin might be a female name (the moniker, which is of Irish origin, means “star of the sea”), yet there was little feminine about the local quartet’s crushing, prog-metal stylings during a recent Tuesday show at Tree Bar.

Dual guitarists Lloyd Martin and Dan Rivera were, in many ways, a study in contrasts. Martin, his hair shorn close to the skull, played with stoic precision, a pugnacious scowl locked on his face. His riffs were equally cranky, hitting like short, sharp jabs to the gut. Rivera, in contrast, whipped his long brown locks around like a would-be weapon, unleashing a series of elongated riffs that alternately sliced through and glided over the mix. At times, like on the towering, instrumental “Inside a View,” the two located middle ground, swinging together like a pair of wrecking balls.

According to the band’s Facebook biography, Mairin actually started as an outlet for Martin’s more stripped-down, simplistic musical urges. But like a game of Calvinball, the group’s sound has grown increasingly complex through the years. Most of the songs the band played at Tree Bar featured multiple instrumental breakdowns, jarring tempo shifts and unexpected time signatures. At times, the crew struggled with some of the more atmospheric passages — there were moments in “Mayfly,” for example, where the four musicians sounded out of sorts, pulling in different directions like schoolchildren dropped off at a carnival entrance. But each time the music picked up the pace the players managed to regroup, curling together as effortlessly and powerfully as a fist.

The low-end was anchored by the group’s man-mountain bassist and its drummer, who opened the show dressed like a boxer-in-training (he wore headphones and had the hood up on his gray sweatshirt) and spent the 40 minute set abusing his kit like an overmatched sparring partner.

Between songs, the band kept the mood light, cracking jokes with the small-but-appreciative audience (“We’re a real serious band,” Rivera deadpanned at one point). But it approached its music with deadly seriousness, delivering tales of alienation and escape with an intensity and a ferocity that, at times, transformed these stars of the sea into stars of the stage.