Listening to the opening few bars of the new Holy Mount album, ‘The Drought’, does not really prepare you for the ‘storm und drang’ of an album that you are about to witness. The gentle acoustic tones of short intro piece ‘Ground Water’ segues straight into ‘Division’, and after that initial bout of mellowness, the rest is pretty full on stoner doom psych rock.
This is Holy Mount’s fourth album, and their second with Berlin’s White Dwarf Rock records, and may just be their most accomplished yet. Previous outing, ‘We Fell From The Sky’, has been a regular on my turntable for some time now and I know from this that the band make albums that you don’t really get bored of. Given ‘The Drought’ hit me just right straight away, this is a very good thing.
Once ‘Division’ explodes into life the Toronto four-piece very quickly get into their stride sounding like a particularly heavy version of Dead Meadow; more doom but with that same sort of vocal wail providing a great confluence of styles amidst the building tension of a track that takes to a real high and keeps you there.
Well and truly in the zone ‘Basalt’ provides more room for some psych excursions with a solid central riff that just pummels away throughout the track. There’s not a lot of variety here, but that’s surely the point; if you’re naming a track after a rock then it’s going to be heavy and relentless.
After these two brain melters a change of tone is very welcome. Don’t expect things to get any less heavy, they don’t; but with ‘Omni Cide’ they become more considered. This is a great slice of doomed stoner rock, the sort whose heaviness almost catches you by surprise. At just over seven minutes this is a real ride that just seems to get deeper and just get ready to savour that guitar solo towards the end.
‘Blackened Log’ starts synth heavy before the stoner artillery kicks in and the track takes off with some killers riffs injecting a certain amount of power into the mixture; with that vocal wail over the top adding texture. As you would expect from a track that goes by the title ‘Blood Cove’ there is a certain sense of trepidation to the following track. There is a really good interaction between vocals and guitar here as they interchange providing a kind of sonic narrative that really sits well amidst the heavier elements of the rhythm section. This, for me, is that track that shows Holy Mount to be a step above many doom/ stoner bands…there’s real thought here; a layering of sound that gives this and much of the rest of the album depth.
So it’s all too soon that we seem to arrive at the final title track. As slow starter, it is also the longest on the album getting off with some languid use of the wah wah pedal and building steadily from that. This is a number that really strings you out as the music gets more and more frantic as the guitar gets more and more stretched finally disintegrating into an final abyss of noise.
‘The Drought’ is quite a trip; it’s heavy, uncompromising and totally well played. It’s the sort of album that only comes along every so often. Yes it has strong elements of doom and stoner rock, and has the sort of mesmeric effect on the listeners that puts it firmly in ‘psych’ territory. Yet, I would argue, that this album is more than this. It’s a great rock album, that I would hope would have reach beyond those genres.
‘The Drought’ is up for pre-order now at White Dwarf Rock records, and is available in limited edition (150 copies) yellow 180gm vinyl, with as further pressing (350 copies) on 180gm black vinyl.