Album Review: Mountain Man – “Grief”

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I loved Last Lights, and when tragedy befell them and they had to quit making music, I was very sad. When I heard that Last Lights members would be starting a new hardcore project and were in the midst of releasing their first proper full-length, I was happy once again. This band is called Mountain Man and the album in question is their upcoming Think Fast! release, Grief.

Now, first and foremost, I’m a complete sucker for concept albums. When I saw Grief’s track listing and realized that it apparently was a concept album about the 5 stages of Grief, I was really stoked. Hardcore bands (for the most part) write great concept albums. So, this was definitely already a plus for Mountain Man in my books.

The album kicks off with “Denial I”, a short dissonant wave of guitar riffs and pounding drums that serve well to introduce the mayhem that is to come. The album rightfully explodes into the vicious “Denial II”, a 55 seconding head-bitting song that pretty much sums up what Mountain Man are all about. Vicious, gnashing screams, lots of distortion, walls of feedback, crunchy bass lines and lighting-speed drumming. Though there’s definitely elements of Last Lights brand of hardcore in there, there’s something far more unrestrained and chaotic about Mountain Man’s sound. “Denial III”, “Bargaining I” showcase the band’s ability to write controlled (but not less violent) thrashy hardcore songs. However, the band’s true talent (and thankfully where they spend the majority of their time) is their ability to loosen the reigns a little and let the sound drive itself. There’s something incredibly energetic and, dare I say, punk rock about their approach. From the ear piercing feedback to voracious vocal delivery, the band definitely sounds angry and like they mean it. This is definitely a record meant to be listened to loud, while breaking everything around you. That said, that is not to say that the band is simply noise, far from it. The band does have a moodier side, “Denial IV” being a prime example, taking down the chaos a little bit for more restrained, but necessary, build ups and releases. Take the intro to “Bargaining III” with it’s pounding drums heralding in the full band, feedback and all. Even given the short length of these songs, Mountain Man manages to pack in a lot into each song without the songs sounding cramped or squished. One of the biggest curses that this style of hardcore has is that the songs finish way too quickly, that they are in essence longer songs that the band pushed into into a confined time, but Mountain Man, even though their longest song is the instrumental “Acceptance II” (clocking in at around 2:25) manage to finish the songs without cutting them off. Another thing I really enjoyed about this release are the “filler” songs, which seem necessary to give the old ears a little rest. They also work nicely to spread the album out and give the chaos some breathing room. Plus, they’re just down right creepy, and that’s awesome.

I do find that Grief drags on a little too long for this kind of music, but honestly when your album is not even half an hour long that might be asking too much. Another place where the band could improve is in closing the album. While “Acceptance II” isn’t a bad song, it does not serve as closer and could have found a home elsewhere on the album more comfortable. A quick solution for this might be to reverse the order of the two “Acceptance” songs, the eerie, almost industrial, instrumental of “Acceptance I” would have served as far better closer than the actual closer. This leads to one of my biggest beefs with the album; that for a concept album it only latches on to that idea on a very small basis. I will admit that I’m not too sure of the lyrics in this album for I do not have a lyric sheet and trying to understand a vocalist that sounds totally deranged is pretty difficult might hinder my understanding of their concept, but I was hoping that the different stages would differ a little more. Sure, the “Anger” songs sound a little angrier and the “Denial” portion is a smidge darker, but there’s isn’t enough of an exploration to really justify their separation. I would have loved to see Mountain Man play way more with the different stages, and if their instrumentals are any indication, they would have done a magnificent job.

All in all, this is a solid album. Vicious in all the right places and with teeth showing at all times. This kind of music takes no prisoners and Mountain Man have showcased with Grief that they’re very aware of that. If you’re into loud, feedback ridden, chaotic hardcore a la Last Lights, All Teeth, This Routine Is Hell then Grief and Mountain Man are right up your dreary alley.

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