London-based three-piece Mountain Caller have released their debut album ‘Chronicle 1: The Truthseeker’. Interestingly as a debut this is a concept album, and forms the first chapter of our heroine’s story as she embarks on a journey of discovery. At first glance you might think this is a 70’s retro folk-prog tale….think again!
Mountain Caller are very much into heavy instrumental post-rock. So The Truthseeker has no hippy-ish lyrics (sez me, Old Fart that I am!). It IS about a journey, but a thoroughly modern song-set of guitar-led post-rock. a six-track instrumental journey. A tale of twists and turns along the dusty road, through haunting landscapes and weird events along the way, all captured on a broad canvas through a nicely varied set of compositions employing melody, wonderful guitar licks and riffs, fascinating command of rhythm and percussion. I have to pinch myself to remember these are three young musicians on their first recorded material!
And here’s the thing – I normally lose my way when listening to instrumental albums – no matter how well played or produced, they often leave me cold without that story-telling process. So how come Mountain Caller hold my rapt attention from start to finish?! Actually, I tell a lie, there is a short burst of vocals three quarters of the way through the penultimate track! But the real answer is in the way this young, massively talented trio swoop and swing between loud and soft passages, sometimes beefy, always driven by tuneful guitar work, with an eye for atmospheric prog arrangements that never lose their engagement with your ears!
I can see how this has been a labour of love for the band, the fruition of three years of carefully developing and refining their compositions. But the production itself is to be applauded, it’s crystal clear, you can hear the proverbial pin drop in the quieter passages. Hats off to Producer Joe Clayton of Pijn, and the Mastering work by Magnus Lindberg of ‘Cult Of Luna’. That’s where I get flavours of Mogwai, Dawnwalker, and a touch of Kimono Drag Queens for that same overall sense of widescreen sound management.
Reviews so far have been equally impressed, a sample being:
‘Prog-doom perfection’ – Metal Injection
‘This is less an album than an original score crafted by a prog-doom trio. Each track creates a world that is both immersive and intriguing.’ – Knotfest
‘While many make the claim to have a balance of sight and sound, Mountain Caller underscore the totality of their talent with the video for “I Remember Everything.‘ – Knotfest
Journey Through The Twilight Desert opens the tale, introducing a sense of wide-open soundscapes, gentle guitar spirals, before a nicely beefy riff kicks in. ‘Boingy’ bass is a lead instrument in itself, creating space between the chaos. Clever shifts in tempo across the sections characterise this track before you’re beaten to an aural pulp by some bombastic drumming, a developing chord progression then builds satisfyingly towards a conclusion. It sets you up for an appreciation of each and every instrument within these compositions
Feast at Half-light City is a more “in-yer-face” rocker whilst still playing clever changes in pace and mood. There’s a great slice of somehow distant, echoing, floaty lead guitar that any rock guitarist would be proud of before another circuit of the main riff introduces an altogether more psychedelic tone to the guitar work, percussion again is top-notch!
I Remember Everything is just fantastic the way the band handle changes in pace and mood. Fluid, echoing guitar licks mingle with whopping chord progressions, mesmeric, heart-stopping basslines and wonderful percussion. The quieter sections make you hold your breath before the climactic finale hits you. My favourite track on the album, and that was before I watched the video! Of which, guitarist Claire Simson comments, ‘The video for “I Remember Everything” was directed and produced by ridiculously talented friend of the band Tom Le Bon. It tells fragments of the story written in tandem with the album and even features The Protagonist. It’s not a literal dramatisation but the scenes are symbolic parts of the story and the film team did an outstanding job bringing it to life. We are beyond stoked with how it turned out and can’t wait to share it with the world
Trial by Combat sneaks in slowly, quietly before a whopper of a doom-riff lashes out Sabbath-like! This chugs away thunderously before fading into an ethereal bridge section, a hypnotic bassline combines with delicate percussion – again the soundmix is so crisp, each instrument stands out so well – then we’re back to the bone-crusher, painting a vivid picture of the ordeal of the song title. You can imagine the exhausted winner holding her arms up in tired victory.
A Clamour of Limbs – Hmm, less sure about this. It’s a bit too messy and complicated to be frank, stops and starts without ever really establishing a flow?
And so to the album’s closer, Dreamspirals. Great title by the way! We’re once again treated to the shimmering, echoey, dreamlike lead guitar featured in most of the the earlier tracks, leading you hypnotically into a meaty riff in which all three of the band are immersed whilst being in complete control of the composition. It feels like it’s closing this part of the story while giving you a teaser of whats to come. Again the lead and bass guitars are almost indistinguishable in the middle section, they’re that melodic. Then we’re off into a prog-like spiral, winding the mighty riff up to its inevitable crescendo, the listener being well and truly wrapped up in the arrangement. The soundscape over the ending reminds me again of Dawnwalker in the sense of the sheer size of the “musical wall” in front of your ears – without being bonecrushingly dense. And that balance of drama with clarity is what really hits the spot for me!
What we have here is an album which is hugely ambitious in terms of soundscape and composition, not to mention wonderful musicianship – and for a trio of debutants! Guitar, bass and drums all ebb and flow sinuously throughout. It’s a mesmeric creation way beyond their years, I am in awe of their creative flair! Mountain Caller have produced a first chapter of what promises to be an epic saga but is a whopping widescreen musical experience in itself – The next instalment promises to be a monster!