Kilbourne / Mares Of Thrace
Reviewed on this page:
Underground/Jan. 17th, 2003 - Measure Of Health - Fashion Police Brutality - Inward - The Moulting - The Pilgrimage
Gee, coming from Calgary, Alberta is not the expressway to media attention you'd think. The post-punk threepiece Kilbourne has been making heavy, catchy, fresh, exciting records since 2004, and not only did I not hear of them until 2011, I can't even figure out whether they're still together or not. Too young for the Riot Grrrl scene (and 500 miles northeast of Olympia), the Lanz sisters - Thérèse (aka Trez), guitar and lead vocals; Francesca, bass - and drummer Stefani MacKichen nonetheless follow a similar philosophy: a high energy attack, uncluttered production, left-wing politics, and extreme emotional and musical directness. What could go wrong? I don't know, but something did: Kilbourne's records didn't sell, Francesca got married, and the next thing you know Thérese and MacKichen formed a sludgecore twopiece, initially called Tosca and then Mares Of Thrace, which has gotten much more critical attention. I have to admit, I enjoy Kilbourne more, but anything that gets Lanz's riffs and MacKichen's drumming heard is a positive in my book.
Outside of those bands, Lanz has moonlighted (moonlit?) as vocalist for ¡Olé! and Exit Strategy, and bassist for KEN mode. As of 2014 she's also playing baritone guitar in Waspkeeper.
Kilbourne - Thérèse Lanz, vocals and guitar; Francesca Lanz, bass; Stefani MacKichen, drums. Dan Bronson, guitar, added 2006; left 2008? Francesca Lanz (by this point known as Francesca Jensen) left, 2010?
Mares Of Thrace - Thérèse Lanz, vocals, baritone guitar, electronics; Stefani MacKichen, drums. MacKichen left 2012, replaced by Rae Amitay. MacKichen returned, 2013.
Comforting Violence (Honeyrocket: 2002)
I haven't been able to find this yet, the sole album from Lanz/Lanz/MacKichen's first band. Judging from the titles, Thérèse's interest in biology was already well developed ("The Nature Of Moths"; "Earthworm"). Lead guitarist was Marlene Lau, who later wound up in pop-metal band Kill Matilda. At some point before this record was cut, vocalist Jamie Fooks (Jane Vain and the Dark Matter) and drummer Jen Foster (The Flairs) passed through the band's lineup as well.
Underground/Jan. 17th, 2003 (¡Olé!: 2003)
In addition to leading a band or two of her own, Lanz was vocalist for this Calgary noise rock crew (Kieran McAuley, guitar and vocals; Ian Baker, bass; Mark Fleischhaker, drums). This half-hour live set, recorded shortly after the group formed, is effective: The playing is chaotic but in a combobulated way; the tunes are well differentiated (even good noise rock bands are prone to have lots of songs that sound the same); if you've heard any of her other work you already know Lanz can scream; and
the sound mix is quite good for a club show (Fleischhkaker's drum patterns are easy to hear, which I wouldn't have expected).
Measure Of Health (Kilbourne: 2004)
Post-punk with elements of hardcore, noise rock and Riot Grrrl, Kilbourne's debut covers a lot of ground: on "Adhesion" there are power pop verses, screamed choruses, and about three different bridge sections, all in under four minutes.
Frontwoman Thérèse Lanz contributes most of the off-hand but insidious guitar hooks ("Amanda Vs. Darwinism") and both screamed and sung vocals; sister Francesca (bass) and Stefani MacKichen (drums) also sing some harmonies ("The Bow Valley Tragedy").
The lyrics generally draw on left-wing politics, subtracting the dogmaticism and adding a big dollop of humor ("Death Cries Of The Rich And Famous").
So generally the band sounds like a metal-leaning Sleater-Kinney ("Orphanages Of The Future") or a less jokey Lunachicks, and you're definitely not going to hear me complain about that. There are no duds, though "Wednesday, When The Wall Came Down" is slight, and the acoustic change of pace "A Shotgun Sermon To The Heart Of Kingston" doesn't show any of the band's talents to best advantage.
Olé! (¡Olé!: 2006)
An EP; I can't make out the words but the titles make me wish I could ("When In Rome, Do As The Hermaphrodites Do").
The following year the group cut a four-track demo Lanz eventually released online.
I believe the band still exists, and Lanz has played the occasional live show with them as recently as 2012.
Fashion Police Brutality (Kilbourne: 2006)
A six-song EP; Dan Bronson is on second guitar, which leads to some intriguing contrasting lines ("Blood In The Bubblebath"). The songwriting is at least as good as on the debut: "Ten Bucks Well Spent" is a fine example of the band's ability to cross unhinged rage with straight-up melodicism; the anti-consumerist "The Revolution Of Less" has a wonderfully simple breakdown.
Later in the year, the new track "Rent" appeared on a split 7" with New World On Fire;
I believe the group went on hiatus after this, during which time Thérèse Lanz became lead vocalist for Alberta deathgrinders Exit Strategy - she stayed with that band through 2010 or so.
Inward (Kilbourne: 2009)
Back to a three-piece (with now-married Fran credited as Francesca Jensen), and the sound is less intricate but more varied. Produced by Jonah Krieser, there are mellower tunes than anything on the previous discs ("La Manzanilla De La Muerte"), while the furious hardcore ("The Finest Ladyboys Bangkok Has To Offer") is the way you wish Babes In Toyland had sounded. Not to mention the stretches into attenuated, desiccated breakdowns on several cuts ("Red Peony," with MacKichen's heaviest drumming thus far).
The contrast makes the basic crunching rock'n'roll ("Purple Orchid") more refreshing than ever, as the best hooks take on a miraculous force ("White Trash Narnia"). "Pink Magnolia" is the only "ho hum" tune in the set.
I still can't figure out what most of the titles have to do with the songs ("Ben Stein Vs. The Finches") - if I make any progress I'll let you know.
The Moulting (Mares Of Thrace: 2010)
I'm not sure whether this is a side project or the successor to Kilbourne; either way, it's a bassless sludgecore duo consisting of Lanz and MacKichen. I generally avoid sludge metal because the prolonged feedback drones don't rock my socks or hold my attention, but Lanz keeps the enterprise entertaining by including lots of her trademark chunky guitar licks ("Rawcake (and bloody fingers)"), while her vocal approaches extend from whispers and gasps through melodic singing (some mannered, some guileless) all the way to unhinged screams ("General Sherman"). With all she's got going on you never wish for more instruments, and MacKichen keeps up an unholy racket throughout.
Ultimately, the record plays like a bizarre but compelling cross between Neurosis and Sleater-Kinney ("Mandible") - not better than Kilbourne but different enough to intrigue a different audience.
MoT also contributed "Harvestman" to an Apocalypse Sunrise compilation cassette (you read that right).
Also in 2010, Lanz was on Exit Strategy's The Apostate's Creed, and later in the year she temporarily joined KEN mode as bassist.
The Pilgrimage (Mares Of Thrace: 2012)
More singleminded than their debut (all growling, no singing), but generally in the same mold: medium-slow, feedback-heavy, low-end angst ("The Perpetrator").
I can't make out many of the lyrics, but it seems to be a combination concept album mixing Biblical references ("Act II: Bathsheba's Reply To David") with entomology ("The Gallwasp"), in line with the band's "Higher education and lowered tuning" tagline.
For me, the band's at their best when Lanz is tossing off offhand but precise riffs ("The Pragmatist"), and not at their best when focusing on rumble and atmosphere ("The Goat Thief"; the eight-minute "...And The Bird Surgeon"), and there's more of the latter on this disc.
This is really a three-star record, but I've lowered the rating because I recommend you start with anything else Lanz and MacKichen have collaborated on.
In 2014, Mares of Thrace leaked a demo of "Dead French Mathematicians."
Ten bucks well spent.