Mountain Man "Grief" reviews
If you’ve played in a hardcore band and toured throughout the East Coast of the United States, then you are already familiar with Worcester, Massachusetts. The largely blue collar city has had one of the strongest hardcore scenes in the country since the mid-‘90s. It’s no surprise that the guys in Mountain Man call the place home. Mining from many of the same influences as bands like Converge and American Nightmare did – the combo deliver a heavy on intensity and light on melody take on the genre. Although they’ve already toured with the likes of Outbreak and Four Year Strong, Grief is Mountain Man’s debut album.
Sonically speaking, producer Alex Garcia-Rivera (Shelter, Saves the Day), focuses a lot of the sonic attention on Joshua Smith’s possessed vocal attack and Jesse Menard’s abrasive guitar tone. The sparse production style does those attributes well and its bare bones approach also fits Mountain Man’s songwriting approach perfectly. In terms of its energy — Grief doesn’t let up from the time you start the record till the needle comes off the vinyl. It’s great to hear a band playing this primitive style of hardcore this way. We won’t be surprised if this album finds its way onto many year-end lists come December. 7.5/10
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.
On the surface, Mountain Man appear to play a pretty straight forward brand of noisy, fast hardcore. After multiple listens, many of their listed influences become more and more evident. I can hear elements of early Neurosis and Converge shining through. This subtle injection of these unorthodox influences with the very raw and abrasive brand of hardcore that this band churns out really create something refreshing.
There are many bands doing what Mountain Man does... but the difference here is in the execution and delivery. Wrapped up in these short frantic bursts are tracks featuring nothing but ambiance or seemingly aimless noises. In most cases, I would call the artist(s) out for making filler cuts just to pad the track count... but these tracks really set the tone for what is to come.
This is by no means a masterpiece... but I really do enjoy this record. From its overabundance of feedback, rabid pace and feverishly shouted verses... to its ambient interludes and overwhelming sense of urgency... it leaves you with not a second to breath. Mountain Man certainly are doing it their own way, and I applaud them for that.
Check this out, for sure.
Mountain Man…. a name most certainly suited for their music… it’s rough and aggressive, much like a mountain man, and who is to say it doesn’t make you want to chop down a tree? All jokes aside, Mountain Man is a fairly new east coast hardcore band formed from the ashes of the tragic Last Lights whose career was cut short with the untimely death of their singer.
With Mountain Man’s latest release on ThinkFast! Records, Grief, they take a different approach to an album; they tackle the grief process with the ugliness that it can encompass. On Grief they follow through the five stages musically and lyrically, in the order of 1) Denial 2) Anger 3) Bargaining 4) Depression and 5) Acceptance. This is a newer approach for a hardcore band, and although not in the same vein as Defeater, it is reminiscent of them with just the idea of having a concept or theme behind an album beyond the songs and lyrics. While not a new idea in regards to music, within the hardcore scene this is rarely done.
Grief has a very raw, under-produced sound to the recording without sounding sloppy. It’s produced well in the right parts and left for raw intensity in others. The constant feedback and noise exhibited on the songs definitely keeps a more earthly sound to the record, an almost live sound if you will. The lyrics are somewhat cryptic, allowing for interpretation, which can be a good and a bad thing, depending mostly on the listener themselves and what type of lyrical content they’re searching for.
Throughout the five stages, themes of inner conflict and turmoil, loss of hope, visions of death, feelings of being out of place, life dragging on, negative change, false nostalgia, complacency, fearful thoughts, life beating you down, the ugliness of the world, and nothing lasting forever are touched on. Not to say these are specifically what are being discussed, or even what Mountain Man was going for, but the lyrics found on Grief are written in a way that allows for interpretation. Musically speaking, Grief is what you would expend from members of Last Lights; it’s extremely fast and hard hitting, with breaks and mid tempo shifts in all the right places. It’s a record that could easily have kids circle pitting and stage diving without hesitation. The instrumental breaks during each stage add a nice effect of transitioning through the cycle.
However, despite all of the praises that Grief earns, it still doesn’t fully deliver. The problem with it is that despite the creative and realistic nature of the lyrics, it’s hard to follow exactly how they relate to each stage of the grieving process since they all exhibit an overall ugliness to them. Musically, all of the songs exhibit the same basic style, which is awesome, but leaves listeners not being able to completely differentiate between stages, which can be seen as taking away from the intent of the record in the first place.
All in all, it’s definitely a good record and a strong effort from this east coast hardcore band. The music is dark and gloomy lyrically, and fast and heavy musically, but the whole concept behind the record seems to get sort of lost in the cryptic and monotonous nature, but all of that is again open to interpretation. If you’re listening for the simple joy of good music and lyrics, this is a fantastic record, but if you’re looking for a progressive theme and changes that it would entail, it might leave you feeling a little disappointed. You be the judge.
Massachusetts hardcore act Mountain Man grew out of the abbreviated legacy set by half its members in Last Lights, and essentially picks up where that band left off after the tragic death of frontman Dom Mallary: searing, visceral hardcore modeled after early 2000s acts like Panic and American Nightmare (the latter a band whose appeal has only appeared to, strangely, further polarize over the last decade), then modified with their own sense of spat outrage and liberal doses of powerviolence-style thrashing.
After a pair of well-received EPs (a 2009 demo and 2010 10", One), the band unleash a convincingly intense and well-rounded full-length debut in Grief. Conveying their title in a psychological sense, the band actually map out the album via the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Each of these stages are given three-to-four tracks to let the listener move through. It gives things an interesting aesthetic element for sure, but it's hard to say if the band truly take advantage of the potential in laying out such distinct quarters: compared against each other, each stage is musically similar, none necessarily carrying traits or moods unique to that moment of the LP.
That being said, the band guide the record with a vicious bend and relatively creative fury. As a result, highlights abound. "Denial I" is a sinister buildup that eventually resembles Give Up the Ghost's "(It's Sometimes Like It Never Started)" (and when it ends with a "1-2-3!", it just seems like a paean at that point). "Denial II" follows as a short, full-speed-ahead blast, while "Denial IV" throbs and broods for much of its 2:30 running time (the longest of the 17 tracks here). "Anger I" lays on the vocal static à la Sex Positions for an ambitious flourish, while "Bargaining I" is a re-recorded and re-titled version of "Live" (from the demo), given a slightly smoggier delivery. Off-kilter squeals and relentlessly pound through "Depression II", while "Depression IV" has this particularly tumbling pow-pow about it—all popping drums and such. Closer "Acceptance II" has the grieving protaganoist finding peace through one last semi-violent tantrum.
Grief's strength largely lies in its little bits of careful experimentation, keeping this album fresh throughout its course—even if it didn't have to be at only 24 minutes long. As a result, it's a successful full-length debut.