Released: 2014, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Should I tell you that female vocalists always tended to put me right off? There just never seemed to be as much variety as with the guy singers-of-words. It's as though woman in metal generally feel they have to fall into certain camps, or maybe it's more accurate to say that the metal media only like to tell us about those that fit those boxes. Regardless, whilst no doubt talented in whatever ways, very rarely did any of it speak to me personally – on a musical or vocal front.
But then came the wave of female-fronted doom – bands like Witch Mountain, Jex Thoth, and now Mount Salem, and it gave me a reason to listen. And I'm not the only one it seems as these Chicago-ites released ENDLESS independently back in 2013, which attracted the attention of Metal Blade Records, and here we are with an expanded re-issued version.
As I just alluded to, Mount Salem aren't the only band doing this, but that's no need to discount them. After all who hasn't lost track of the number of male-fronted bands all occupying the exact same space, right down to affecting a completely different accent to fit in.
Luckily Mount Salem don't do that. Here's the short version – ENDLESS makes me want to lie down on the floor, put my headphones on, and just listen. Just listen and go where the music takes me. Don't mistake that as me saying this is a living room band – a live show is bound to weave its own magic, but first I just want to shut out everything else so I can truly listen. It makes you realise how rare that is these days – music's a background for our everyday lives, one finger always poised on the skip button. For a band to make you want to hear them is something special.
It's down to firstly the music – all dark and doomy retro heavy built on riffs and furnished with psychedelic/stoner influences – and secondly Emily Kopplin's voice. It actually fits, it works with every other instrument, but it has enough of its own power to demand you listen to it. “Lucid” in particular has some real weight behind it, whilst Kopplin manages to almost seduce and menace listens at the same time.
The songs tend to be relatively concise, but nothing feels hurried. The bass, cymbal and vocal intro to “Full Moon” chills even as it builds into a big buzzy onslaught, and there's a theatricality to “Mescaline” that almost makes you think of the most remote reaches of the West, where fingers continually rest on steel. It's partner “Mescaline II” builds on this but takes it elsewhere as clear high vocals lay over fuzz and riffs.
“Hysteria” has a Black Sabbath echo to it but with Kopplin instead of Ozzy weaving the spell, as well as her adding in another dimension in the form of the organ, which continues into appropriately titled “The End”.
This is music steeped in what's come before and as such isn't going to make your balls fall off with surprise, but it is worth filling your ears with. There's a reason people keep returning to that 70's doom sound, and it's because of the power it conveys, that beautifully heavy sound. And for that same reason you'll probably keep returning to Mount Salem.
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs