Article by: Leanne Ridgeway
A devouring fusion of thrash, psychedelic, stoner, and doom elements with lyrics based on personal stories reinterpreted in the realm of mythological tales, DEATHCAVE‘s new album ‘Smoking Mountain‘ revolves around the concept of inevitable death and decay of not only humans but nature as well.
“Just south of Seattle, the Klickitats called Mount St. Helens ‘Louwala-Clough,’ while the Cowlitz tribes called it ‘Lavelatla,’” elaborates bassist / vocalist Freiburger. “These two terms had the exact same meaning: ‘Smoking Mountain.’ This idea is what cemented the name and general theme of the record.“
Named after the Apache Death Cave in Arizona, DEATHCAVE was forged in 2018, and hit the ground running as its three members – Freiburger (Throne Of Bone, Brain Scraper), Benny Koslosky (Swampyheavy), and Tony Muñoz (Razorhoof, Worship) – are longtime veterans of the underground touring circuit. The band released one three-song, self-titled demo last year. Captured by Tad Doyle (Tad, Hog Molly, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth) at his Witch Ape Studio, the recording reaped critical accolades from critics and underground fans in-the-know, ultimately earning them a spot on Northwest Terror Fest (now moved to 2021).
The newly released, rather thundering five-track offering, which includes guest vocals by Andrea Vidal (Holy Grove), Dave Verellen (Botch, Narrows), and Neil McAdams (Black Breath), as well as a track dedicated to late Black Breath bassist Elijah Nelson, was released digitally and on limited edition vinyl on August 14th.
‘Smoking Mountain‘ is powerfully dark, with a sinister slant in both sound and lyrical content. “Death Cave” sets off on a faster thrashy sludge vibe through the first several verses and choruses of the story with a forceful bludgeoning. About 3:45 minutes into it we get a churning rhythmic cycle for a minute or two to slowly settle you in before ripping things to shreds in the last moments of this 7+ minute burner.
Only one track of ‘Smoking Mountain‘ is less than seven minutes (track three – “The Road“), but that doesn’t mean anyone is noodling along to extend the time for time’s sake; each song is structured with well-planned changes in tempo, sub-sections of ethereally winding psych whirlings, or mood-enhancing musical dives or soars into the harsh bellows of vocals, and in the later songs – the surprise of guest vocalists.
The longest song, clocking in at nearly 12 1/2 minutes – “The Seer“, is essentially a tale all its own. Lyrically, it hits dead on the mark into their mystical concepts. Initially, the drums are consistent and tribalesque, guitars are a bit cleaner, vocals initially as harsh as ever. It’s more doom than stoner, more thrash than sludge, and winds itself back and forth from verse to verse with slower to sped up modes. A sludging dirge starts about 5:40, quickly leading into the highly recognizable tones of this song’s guest vocalist Andrea Vidal (Holy Grove). Harmonies abound, while the music quiets to be less the focus and more the enhancement, as her vocals move this interlude on its own. The aftermath of this takes the rest of the song into a well-blended mix of sludge, thrash, and exquisitely dark and doomed ending.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to write a review, but as I was typing up the news of the release and listening to the album on Bandcamp, it had me going back to the page to repeat the various tracks and check out the lyrics more closely… and here we are. Overall, ‘Smoking Mountain‘ is beautifully written songs melding into a full chronicle of short stories, with a highly enjoyable cross of musical genres and vocal stylings, all while still remaining tightly fixed into the metal realm.
01. Death Cave
02. Last Breath
03. The Road (feat. Dave Verellen)
04. The Seer (feat. Andrea Vidal)
05. Poison Wizard (feat. Neil McAdams)
‘Smoking Mountain‘ was recorded by Ben Verellen (Harkonen, Helms Alee) at The Unknown in Anacortes, Washington, mixed by Verellen at Verellen Amplifiers in Seattle, Washington, and mastered by Brad Boatright (Integrity, Full Of Hell, Gatecreeper, High Command) at Audiosiege in Portland, Oregon.
The guest vocals for Andrea Vidal were engineered by Billy Anderson at Everything Hz in Portland, Oregon. The guest vocals for Dave Verellen and Neil McAdams were engineered by Ben Verellen at Verellen Amplifiers. The album cover artwork was done by Ben Verellen, the logo and album title drawn by Santos, with the layout and insert by Chad Ronilo.