Hot on the heels of their debut full length album, Mountain Caller return with a new EP, Chronicle: Prologue, the follow up – but conceptual prequel – to their full-length debut album Chronicle I: The Truthseeker. That album was released earlier this year to wide acclaim, as well as a passionate response from an already devoted fanbase.
This new EP Chronicle: Prologue gives further depth and insight into the conceptual story that embodies their output, as well as their own musical journey. It was released on July 9th in very limited vinyl and digital formats.
Mountain Caller are Claire Simson (guitar), El Reeve (bass) and Max Maxwell (drums), a London -based band very much into heavy instrumental post-rock, a thoroughly modern song-set of guitar-led post-rock, employing melody, wonderful guitar licks and riffs, fascinating command of rhythm and percussion. This young, massively talented trio swoop and swing between loud and soft passages, sometimes wonderfully beefy, always driven by tuneful guitar work, with an eye for atmospheric arrangements that never fail to engage. I said when reviewing the excellent The Truthseeker that completely instrumental bands often leave me cold, yearning for some vocals to knit tracks together – but these guys somehow transcend that and keep you locked in from start to finish!
Recorded alongside the debut album, Prologue’s tracks consist of the very earliest material written by the band. The opener Something Stirred From Underneath The Rubble was the true genesis of the band’s dynamic mix of heavy, expansive and progressive metal, a nine minute epic that builds hypnotically at first, with plenty of shimmering, echoey, dreamlike lead guitar lines morphing into a tastily heavy second section, wonderfully throbbing bassline and tasty percussion. The third section is heavier still, but still hugely tuneful, topped off with a bit of doom and concluding with a re-working of the introduction. With other bands, this could all get very messy, but these guys keep it clean and very stylish.
Beyond This Black Horizon follows, a live fan-favourite and the band’s love letter to the riff, an excellent distillation of Mountain Caller’s approach. Equal parts Black Sabbath, Tool, Mastodon, and Mutoid Man throughout, The band swoosh effortlessly from simple nod-along to full-on headbang.
Stripped Of All But Purpose closes the EP, with the band exploring the widest ranges of their soundscapes and heaviness, while providing some of the most fist-pumpingly metal moments of their career. It starts off with an ominous rumbling bassline, yet almost pastoral guitar work floating above it, before a slow, dense yet always melodic riff kicks in. A brief interlude around the halfway mark signals a Zeppelinesque onslaught before diving into some stoner-doom. And again it’s that knack of seamlessly changing mood, timbre and style in a prog > metal > rock > prog sort of way that works so well!
All in all, these three tracks again highlight the band’s fundamental ambition, passion, and sheer love for creation, the mix of density and deftness is intriguing – that balance of drama with clarity is what really hits the spot for me!
Conceptually, Prologue seamlessly leads into the events of the debut full-length album The Truthseeker, and the band are keen for listeners to consume one after the other, creating one cohesive hour-plus journey. Chronicle: Prologue is a chance to more fully understand the identity of the band and to explore the world they’ve summoned.
“Our new EP ‘Chronicle: Prologue’ is a prequel story to the album,” says bassist El Reeve. “It’s about the very beginning of The Protagonist’s journey, and follows her from waking up under the ruins of a devastated city, to meeting the mysterious Mountain Caller with his equally mysterious motives, and traveling across an ocean to the desert shores where we first encounter her in the album, having survived a shipwreck.
“In ‘Beyond This Black Horizon’, The Protagonist has secured passage on an old ship,” continues El Reeve. “Its course will take her roughly in the direction that’s pressing down on her mind – she must travel onwards, no matter what. The seas become wild and violent, and the ship is battered mercilessly. And soon, through the screaming wind and rain, she can see why. The ship is grappled by colossal tentacles – a weird creature of scales, horns and bones. It’s torn to pieces and she’s plunged into the water, losing consciousness.”
Reviews perfectly capture the band’s strengths:
Metal Hammer: “A dazzling blend of doom, post-metal, and atmospheric rock”
Knotfest: “The fluid meld of progressive rock, stylized doom, and modern post metal works in tandem with the band’s penchant for narrative“
Bandcamp: “the sheer variety of textures and moods help these songs feel more truly cinematic than most metal that earns that tag.”
Noizze: “simultaneously fantastical and vitally culturally poignant … as phenomenal as it is crucial.”
You have to give it to Mountain Caller: they’re making the old feel new again. The three-piece’s music is a mixture of prog, hard rock, and stoner doom — genres that can evoke a sense of antiquity, a call back to more denim-clad times. And yet on both this EP and their full-length album, the band exude a vitality and modernity, a freshness that is impossible to ignore. The result is a sound that is both emotionally relevant to the modern listener and still appreciated by yer more mature fan – like me!