Chicago’s Mount Salem conjure classic, Sabbath-style doom on expanded first release ‘Endless’

Mount SalemSometimes you get a bunch of friends together, you pick up instruments, and things you didn’t imagine would transpire do. I’m sure a lot of bands take their form that way, and I’d imagine it’s the best way to do it because it’s so organic and true.

For example, the band Twilight of the Gods brought together some notable members of the metal world so that they could pay homage to Bathory. Instead things morphed into a band that just took influence from Quorthon and crafted their own songs that drip in heavy metal glory. Another one of Mount Salem, a new signee to Metal Blade Records, who practice doom metal along the lines of Black Sabbath, Blood Ceremony, and Pentagram that definitely leans toward the British sense of the genre. Even though they hail from Chicago, where metallic molecules must be in the water. In fact, when this band took form, they even decided to get out of their comfort zones and try instruments that are little foreign to to each member, and from that came their first EP “Endless,” that first was released last February.

Mount Salem coverNow with Metal Blade behind them, and with live shows under their belts alongside contemporaries such as Windhand, Howl, and Witch Mountain, the EP is being re-released for a larger audience, with two new songs added for good measure. All of this is to introduce them to metal fans while the band gets ready to record their first proper full-length, for which they already are writing. It’s a smart move for both parties, as the label gets an up-and-coming band that plays classic doom as well as anyone going right now, and Mount Salem has more security and support than before, giving them the added confidence they’ll need when hitting the studio.

The band is a four-piece, with powerfully voiced singer/organ player Emily Kopplin right up front, pushing this band along. She has really strong pipes and is one hell of a great singer, and her storytelling skills already are stellar. If there’s one thing she could work on, it would be adding more of a sinister, dark touch to her delivery. She can lure you in for sure, but it would be nice to hear her add a sharper killer instinct so she can slay you once you’re in her grasp. But she has more than enough time to develop that and is a spectacular singer. On guitar is Kyle Morrison, on bass is Mark Hewett, and behind the drums is Cody Davidson, who also are rock solid and deliver their sound with great energy and fire, which should make their doom ancestors proud.

“Good Times” kicks off the record with punchy tempos, swelling organs, and Kopplin telling tales of walking past burned-out churches, setting up some pretty surreal imagery. “You’ll haunt me ’til I’m dead,” she calls, as the song caps off with a catchy, strong finish. “The Tower” is one of the two new tracks, with pulsating sounds, a riff full of dread, and a slow-driving pace that does conjure some of that danger I spoke of earlier. The guitar work just smothers, with a Sabbath feel to the song, and Kopplin delivers some of her best singing on the record. This does make me look forward to what the band is up to next. “Lucid” follows with a thick doomy shuffle, bluesy vocals, and lines that make you feel like you’re stuck in a dream. “Full Moon” is one of the longer songs on here, with an eerie intro, and Kopplin warning, “You will run, but your time is done,” as the song hits a chugging pace that starts to really hammer you. The guitars seriously darken, with the pace picking up and grinding to a halt, and Kopplin cries out in anguish toward the end of the song, with the music burning out and making for a strong finish.

“Mescaline” is a shimmery, psychedelic-edged instrumental, with swelling organs and guitars doing tricks with your mind, and that leads into the other new cut “Mescaline II,” that’s full of crunch, grit, and really strong singing. This song also fills me with hope as for where the band goes from here, and this one really will get smoke in your eyes. “Hysteria” is the longest track on the collection, with more slow-driving playing, and Kopplin once again poking at horror themes with, “Things you don’t believe are true, and they are coming straight for you.” The pace goes back and forth from slow and spooky to fast and clubbing, and the final minutes of the song are some of the strongest on the whole record, with fiery, compelling damage being done. Closer “The End” opens with ritualistic organs wafting out, guitars catching onto that darkness, and a swaggering pace that is something this band always does quite well. The lyrics, obviously, speak of, well, the end, and the song injects tons of power and mystical weirdness, especially with the organs sounding like something out of an old horror film. There aren’t a ton of surprises on this song, and you’ll be pretty sure you know exactly where you’re being led, but that’s not a bad thing. A lot of Sabbath songs are the same way, and as long as the band holds up their end and delivers the fun, that’s all that matters. And Mount Salem do here and on this record.

Mount Salem are off to a strong start with “Endless,” a damn honorable first release that should get them some notoriety in the suddenly swelling doom metal world. With more touring coming up and the band refining their writing and creative skills leading into their debut full-length, there’s a lot to be excited about with Mount Salem and what they are capable of accomplishing. That’ll be one to keep your eyes open for, but for now “Endless” should be enough to tide over their audience, which only should get bigger.

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