PICK OF THE WEEK: ‘As We Were…’ has Mountains Crave exploring life, death, and enlightenment

There are many aspects of human existence that so many of us cannot grasp. Those reasons can range anywhere from the unwillingness to stretch our thinking beyond what’s in front of us or the refusal to think that anything can exist beyond what’s in our immediate spaces. There are people on earth who don’t think there are life on any other planet but ours. Imagine thinking that rigidly.

“As We Were When We Were Not,” the debut full-length from Leeds-based band Mountains Crave, is one that forces you to think beyond your boundaries. After all, this band was inspired by the great Aldous Huxley and his lecture in 1962 based on visionary experiences, which allow one to use the imagination to great extents and perhaps see what’s ahead in our future. The band also leans into territories such as death, the afterlife, spiritual enlightenment, and humankind’s part in and sometimes disassociation with the universe as a whole. Just our world alone is a tiny speck, and often people can lose perspective of such a thing. But this band—vocalist Danny Heaton, guitarists Josh Danby and Mike Midgley (A Forest of Stars), bassist Ol Jessop (also of A Forest of Stars), drummer Rich Speakman—refuses to play to black metal’s standards and formulas, instead pushing their sound into spacier, stranger, sometime New Age-ish pockets in order to provide their own characteristics to the sound.

“Ynisvitrin” opens the record in a noise haze, with chants and calling seemingly coming out of a mist. The track then opens in earnest, with harsh cries that’ll make your blood turn, and playing that energizes your cells. Throat-mangling singing emerges as the band crushes heavily, with fluid playing flowing and carrying the song on its broad shoulders. Melodies lap over each other, as warm leads arrive and flow over the earth, and a final burst of savagery dissolves into a gazey flood. “Istigkeit (We Saw Them of Old)” has glorious melodies unfurling and welcoming you into the void, while harsh vocals and throat-buzzing singing take turns weaving the tales. Melodies gush from every corner, and even a brief reprise from the glowing fire is only temporary, as you’re pulled away to a charging, emotion-filled finish. “Clear Light of the Void” is the longest cut at 9:52, starting with a trickle of sound and a bit from Huxley’s speech before the storm really kicks into gear. The vocals rage over a daring, sometimes prog-fueled passage, while the track twists and turns through many personalities and chemical makeups. An angelic choral section sprays light before the song sparks up and trudges its way to the end.

“Arise O Magnificent Sun” has a huge opening, and then it starts to drive a little slower. The vocals scrape your sides, while the music spills downward, feeling mournful at times. The playing continues to let water into the room, rising dangerously, leading to guitars lighting up and the riffs showing the way out. The title cut is the shortest track on here, a mostly instrumental piece that flows gently, with a female-driven chorus adding beauty to the texture. The song has a spring-like feel to it (at least I think so), and it leads toward the 9:04 closer “Theophany.” The track has a destructive open, letting fire rage and shrapnel fly before melodies blast in and provide more color. The vocals push into the scene as the music swims in a gazey pool. Lurching growls bring you back to your senses, as the music swells and threatens overpour, clean singing rises, and the track has a gigantic emotional finish that should have you heaving for oxygen.

Mountains Crave provide many positives on “As We Were When We Were Not,” both of audio and philosophical nature. Their music is pounding but also expansive and daring, while their thematic content forces you to think and contemplate your very existence. This is an impressive, expressive serving of black metal, and its perfect state for absorption is with you staring into the chasm of stars, realizing you’re a microfiber in a much larger story.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/mountainscrave

To buy the album, go here: http://avantgardemusic.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.avantgardemusic.com/

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