Sunday, 5 October 2014

Album Review - Holy Mountain - Ancient Astronauts

Glaswegian three piece, Holy Mountain, return with another heavily '70's influence metal tour de force.  This album is a pastiche of early rock and metal, notably Black Sabbath through relentless dark and bluesy single note riffs, Mark IV era Deep Purple for similar reasons, with a touch of influence from Iron Maiden’s progressive side, and Zakk Wylde’s earlier guitar solos.

This is an album of pure riffing brilliance.  The riffs prevail over the melodies, with vocals taking a back seat in mix, strength of delivery and in terms of creative power.  This is a band that lacks pretence and clearly just wants to exude energy.

Luftwizard  sits almost in Hendrix’s riffing territories, before taking a leap towards Machine Head era deep purple with an organ/guitar unison solo.  The title tracks pulls heavily from Powerslave-era Iron Maiden as the drumming behind the penultimate riff picks up a notch, before dropping into slow and pounding Black Label Society grounds.  Star Kings  even has characteristics of long-defunct Glaswegians, RAAR.

Toying with tempos is also a key element to this album, either through speeding up riffs to meet the tempo of the next, or by sharply cutting from one to the next in a very late '70's, early '80's prog manner.  This lends its own charm, and evokes the primitive and passionate songwriting of early metal, where you wonder if any one riff was written to be played next to the last, or whether it just happened to work.

As the album progresses, the energy and momentum keeps up.  Taken individually, the songs do not better or worse, but the appeal begins to wear and gives way to a tiredness that often accompanies heavy rock and metal albums.  The reason Black Sabbath were so appealing and long lasting was because of their softer songs, which did not love any value as the overdrive turned down.

It is easy to draw similarities between Holy Mountain and their influences, which could lend itself to a feeling of a lack of distinct and individual style, however, a lot of metal is like this, and one of the beauties of the genre is that influences are obvious, which has given way to such a clear stylistic growth.  The genre is less about innovating, but instead creating energy, pumping fists, banging heads and all the other stereotypes that go with.  In that respect, Holy Mountain have achieved exactly what they set out to do.

- Ashley Leiper

Holy Mountain - Ancient Astronauts  is out now via Chemikal Underground and available in all good record shops or online here.

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