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Mountaris : Desolate (EP)

As an example of the "doomgaze" hybrid genre, Mountaris offer a very solid starting-point.

When it comes to the mixture of Metal and Shoegaze, most of the world's attention has fallen, in the wake of Deafheaven's 'Sunbather', on the Blackgaze subgenre. However, while it would be difficult to dispute the cohesiveness of that particular combination, there is quite a bit that can be said for the use of Doom metal as the metallic ballast for Dream pop experimentation. While Black Metal, on the whole, has a much greater focus on atmosphere than other Metal genres, Doom Metal and its kin, especially Stoner Doom and Drone, place the same emphasis on walls of guitar feedback as groups like My Bloody Valentine do. As a general rule, the biggest difference between them on the level of equipment is that Doom bands focus their gear fetish on stuff like vintage tube amps and boutique fuzz boxes, while Shoegaze groups place a greater focus on ridiculous pedalboard layouts (hence the genre's name). Nevertheless, they share a passion for using distortion effects to create unscalable sonic monoliths, and because of this connection, there has been some movement in recent years to amalgamate the two styles. While it has yet to rival Blackgaze's popularity, there are a number of great bands doing really interesting stuff with Doomgaze, among them Mountaris and their very enjoyable 'Desolate'.

To describe the band in the broadest possible context, rather than fitting in with the handful of older Doom metal-ish bands that bore the influence of groups like Slowdive and Cocteau Twins, such as The Angelic Process and Jesu, they are closer to the Doomgaze groups that arose in the wake of 'Sunbather', who emphasize a sound that is at once misty and ethereal while at the same time pounding and aggressive (such as A Film In Color and GENA). There is, however, quite a bit that sets Mountaris apart from the above mentioned acts. Most notably to my ears is the manner in which the group melded a more traditional, riff-heavy songwriting approach with Doomgaze's hazy walls of sound.

I'll break down the title track to make this a bit more concrete. 'Desolate' starts with your standard thirty seconds of "generic ominous ambient noises", and then transitions to a heavy chord sequence that would be perfectly at home opening a Mastodon album, one that incorporates distortion effects very much on the Doom side of Doomgaze. The distortion heavy sound carries into the verse, but it is joined by a comparatively clean guitar playing an upbeat, melodic riff overtop the feedback. There are plenty of Doom Metal bands that do this across a wide spectrum of subgenres, but the key difference here is the tone of the second guitar, which owes quite a bit to the Shoegaze and Dream pop traditions. These guitars are combined with Dean French's deep, almost lullaby-esque vocals and amorphous, intriguing drum-work to create a sound that at once hearkens to the work of other metalgaze acts and yet does not imitate them. Mountaris then proceed through a cycle of riffs that would all be perfectly at home on a traditional Doom Metal release, which are combined with some well written vocal harmonies that give the end product an ethereal tint. This is followed by a solo built around chromatic runs that would fit perfectly well in an early Morbid Angel album.

The big take home here is that the band have found a sound that, unlike the vast majority of metalgaze hybrids, manages to stay fairly close to traditional Metal on a songwriting level, yet does not abandon the dreamy Shoegaze aesthetic in doing so.

One final thing that caught my attention on the release was pianist Max Payne*'s performance. I don't know what the dude was thinking when he chose his stage name, as there are few things I would associate less with his intricate, well written melodies than the hard boiled cop from an early 2000's Playstation game.
(* Editor's note: The band have since informed us that vocalist Dean French was actually responsible for all the piano parts, except the final track 'Tidal Waves', which was performed by Max Payne.)
French is used to wonderful effect on this release. If the band had become too reliant on his beautiful lines, the music would lose quite a bit of it's power, but employed sparingly, it adds yet another layer to this already stratified release. A great example of his playing can be seen in the song 'Ghost', where he uses the wider melodic palette of his instrument to weave a string of notes around the guitar riff in a manner that complements rather than dilutes or overpowers it.

I would not go so far as to call this record anything revolutionary, but if you have heard a bit about these Doomgaze bands that have been sprouting up recently and want a solid starting point, or are familiar with the genre but crave something a bit more metallic than its typical fare, Mountaris' 'Desolate' is the release for you.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Desolate
2. Lighthouse
3. Jungles
4. Ghost
5. Tidal Waves

Duration : Approx. 30 minutes

Visit the Mountaris bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-04-29 by Pat Jenkinson
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