Album review: MOUNT SALEM – Endless

Metal Blade – Out Now.

70s Heavy Rock is back in fashion. I do not suggest for a moment that bands like Black Sabbath, Cream and Pentagram ever stopped being a massive influence on young artists, especially those of a noisier Doom disposition, but this is the one time where said genre is officially endorsed by some of the biggest labels in the world.

Is that a good or a bad thing? Well, while the jury is still out on this, the rest of us can sit back and enjoy listening to the music of young bands like Mount Salem – the Chicago-based quartet whose debut release “Endless” is now out through Metal Blade records.

“Endless” is eight compositions founded on groove-laden massive-sounding riffs that are led by emotionally charged female vocals and cleverly adorned by late 60s / early 70s keyboard atmospheric themes.

I bet I know what you’re all thinking now – is that not what all like-minded bands do? I can’t disagree, but the main difference here is that the members of Mount Salem do not just do it, but do it well!

Unlike Farida “F. The Mouth of Satan” Lemouchi (The Devil’s Blood), Emily Kopplin’s approach to singing involves mostly high register notes that not only fit nicely with her emotionally charged moody organ themes, but which also create an interesting contrast with Kyle Morrison’s Doom-laden riffs.

Simple in their appeal but well thought through in terms of execution, these eight songs are a clever blend of Retro rock and Doom Metal that can be equally enjoyed by fans of both genres.

It literally takes seconds into the opening track “Good Times” to realise where this band’s affiliation lies, as a massive Pentagram style riff sweeps through and Emily’s vocals create the moodiest of atmospheres.

Similar in feel but much slower in tempo, “The Tower” worships at the altar of Black Sabbath while the more up-tempo “Lucid” brings groove back into the equation. “Full Moon” was the first song that I felt immediately drawn to, mainly as a result of Mark Hewett’s soulful bass guitar themes and I still feel that it is the best song of the album.

“Mescaline” is a harmony-driven instrumental which opens the second half of the album and is quickly followed by its hard-hitting sibling “Mescaline II” – a song which enables drummer Cody Davidson to give his kit a proper pounding.  More sweet bass tones and Sabbath-style riffs can be found in the seven minute “Hysteria”, while Emily Kopplin’s passionate vocals find themselves once again under the spotlight in the fittingly entitled “The End”.

It hasn’t been long since Retro Rock replaced Thrash Metal as the latest trend, and labels are currently investing both time and money in any band that’s willing to compose music with 60s and 70s musical formulae in mind.

While this has undoubtedly been responsible for an influx of albums that will have nothing very interesting to say, it has also enabled decent bands like Mount Salem to pick up their instruments and pay tribute to their heroes in the most appropriate way – through the creation of truly inspiring music.

“Endless” is the product of such a process and that’s why it’s bound to be loved by fans of good and honest music like you and me.

John Stefanis

Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)

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