Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mount Salem-Endless

Metal Blade Records

Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, which is also the hometown of Trouble (just one of this band's better influences), and playing a subtle blend of psychedelic rock and doom metal, with the tilt leaning more towards the former than the latter, we have Mount Salem and their debut-recording "Endless". Initially a (well-received) 2013 self-released EP (with a different track-listing than the one that appears here) it has been expanded into more of a full-length recording thanks to the inclusion of "The Tower" (one of the album's better numbers) and "Mescaline II". Fronted by organist Emily Kopplin (a high-pitched lead singer who is surrounded by three gruff, stoner rock-looking individuals!) and with classic influences from the likes of Trouble, Pentagram and Black Sabbath sharing a bottle of wine while sitting around the same warm and toasty bonfire as bands like Blood Ceremony, Witch Mountain and Death Rides A Horse are(!), Mount Salem look to crack into a scene that is already full to capacity! And that's the thing. It's true that more and more we're seeing these sort of bands emerging from the darkness (ones that rely as much on  psychedelic rock and/or stoner rock as they do doom rock/doom metal) and even here, with Mount Salem being nothing more then just a few years old now, there might technically be little to no new ground broken. Still, there are a few moments ( "The Tower", "Mescaline", "Mescaline II" and the fittingly-titled closing number, "The End"!) when Mount Salem puts all the puzzle pieces in their proper spot and things just click. Credit that to the backing band of guitarist Kyle Morrison, bass guitarist Mark Hewett and drummer Cody Davidson as these three musicians (or bearded warriors of old if you will!) play-up to Emily's strengths while also helping to cover up some of her shortcomings (let's just say that her high-pitched voice doesn't always go off with a bang and leave it at that). On their own these gentlemen make for a decent enough three-piece (with drummer Cody Davidson arguably the most skilled one of the lot) although even they have plenty of room to grow (to put it another way, both elements, the guys and then Emily, work better when paired up together as a full-fledged band as opposed to striking out as individual entities). Of the eight tracks presented here on this 2014, expanded-edition of "Endless" it works out to be something like four good moments and four so-so moments. While I had honestly hoped for a little more evenness (seeing as I had read plenty of glowing reviews for this album before taking the plunge myself and splurging for the Digipak MCD on Amazon) this is at least a good start from this female-fronted Chicago act. So, even if Mount Salem has a ways to go before they can (reasonably) expect to compete with the front runners of psychedelic doom (whether female-fronted or not) at least they already have a solid foundation in place with "Endless" upon which they can and hopefully will expand! 

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