Artist: Mountain Caller
Album Title: Chronicle II: Hypergenesis
Label: Church Road Records
Date of Release: 26 January 2024
Would you just look at that cover art? One glance at it and you just knew that I’d feel compelled to dive right in, didn’t you? And you’re correct of course, even though I knew the square root of sod all about this band, their music, or their back story when I saw it. Up it popped on my social media feed, and like a moth to a flame, I was taking a nosey listen in mere moments.
It could have ended very badly as a result but, given I am now bringing you my review, you can probably guess that I don’t hate this record. And ‘this record’ is ‘Chronicle II: Hypergenesis’, the second full-length release from UK-based Mountain Caller. They are a trio comprised of guitarist Claire Simson, bassist and ‘occasional’ singer El Reeve, and drummer Max Maxwell and have been in existence since around 2017, plying their trade in and around the capital.
And now that I’ve got the easy bit out of the way, there’s nowhere else for me to turn – it’s time to tackle the music itself. If truth be told, I’m struggling, because Mountain Caller do their best to defy true classification or accurate description. The trio merely state that they ‘tell stories with sound’, whereas elsewhere I’ve heard them described as everything from psychedelic to post-metal, progressive to stoner, and doom. One thing is for sure, and that’s that Mountain Caller are predominantly an instrumental three-piece with only the occasional vocal. All other descriptions remain on the table, and ready for debate, with elements of truth to them all to a greater or lesser extent.
In reality, however, I have always preferred to talk about how I think the music sounds to me, and how it makes me feel rather than sticking heavily to genre descriptions. If I do this, the one word that crops up in my mind is ‘unique’, followed closely by ‘intriguing’ and then ‘wonderful’. Bands that conjure descriptions of ‘psychedelic’ are rarely within my wheelhouse, but such is the way that this music is put together and performed that there’s so much more than that one narrow avenue upon which to fixate – it’s just one of the ingredients that comes together to create a full-on smorgasbord of aural delights.
Coming in at around a very digestible forty minutes or so, the six compositions that make up ‘Chronicle II: Hypergenesis’ are blessed with a great production to maximise their impact. It has the feel of a live recording but remains blessed with a meaty yet clear mix, so that every aspect of the music can shine in a really positive, warm analogue glow. I bet this sounds amazing on vinyl, for example.
Opening with the aptly titled ‘Daybreak’, the album gets off to the best possible start. The intro sees a clean guitar play a gentle but bright recurring melody before it is casually thumped out of the way by the incoming heavily distorted six-string, alongside robust drumming and deep bass. However, even when heavy, the song carries with it an air of melodic majesty and despite flitting from one tempo to another across the entire six-and-a-half minutes in true prog fashion, the composition still feels inviting and effortlessly smooth. Utilising the heavy/quiet/heavy blueprint also ensures that the song maintains my interest especially the glorious explosion of post-rock power after an extended period of guitar-led minimalist contemplation. I also really like the fast-picked guitar work later in the piece that brings with it a sense of the epic and of emotion, actually.
Each of the ensuing five tracks is as intricately-worked and varied as the opener, too. And, although they are all unmistakeably Mountain Caller, they are interwoven with enough variety to keep the listener entertained throughout. ‘The Archivist’ is a fabulous shorter composition, for example, setting off with a lone bass line that’s vibrant and musical until it is eventually joined by a sensitive beat and clean guitars to add to the overall vibrancy. And then in marches one of the heaviest, grooviest riffs on the album. It has a sludgy, dirty death/doom metal feel to it and this segues nicely into a quieter passage that sounds a little jarring, almost discordant, building tension only for it to be released by a doom-esque crunchy riff that again threatens to shake the foundations of my house.
El Reeve offers some vocals on ‘Dead Language’ to add another dimension just shy of the halfway point of the record. Her delivery is soft and breathy, almost ethereal and definitely very welcome, helping to drive along the song when it’s quieter, yet just as urgent sounding. When the volume and intensity of the music is increased, it feels a little like the vocals struggle to be heard, but it’s a minor gripe within a song that more starkly than most deploys the light and shade approach, going from intense, heavy, and pacey to almost nothing whatsoever.
The ever-present post-metal and stoner type influences are never far away and it’s something of a surprise that I find myself liking the material just as much as I do as a result. However, who could possibly fail to get punched in the emotions by the gloriously melancholic intro to ‘Into The Hazel Woods’, especially when the tender lead guitar solo from Claire Simson echoes so poignantly, demonstrating great touch and feel? And then, later on, those slow, ponderous doom riffs return, alongside some fuzzed-up, psychedelic wah-wah style lead guitar work.
‘March Of the Göll’ sees Mountain Caller at their most heavy, intense, and dramatic, right from the get-go thanks to a wonderfully menacing intro, seeing the band also launch later into their fastest material on this album. It makes for a heady, passionate listen and only serves to ensure that the final track, ‘Hypergenesis’ makes a greater impact. It’s the longest single composition, but for my money, it’s also the most gloriously upbeat and melodic of them all too. From the beautiful opening, right through some thunderous riffs, to the insane swirling closing crescendo, it carries with it a sense of positivity and hope that I find charming and just a bit irresistible. I do like albums that end on a high, and ‘Hypergenesis’ does just that here.
I can now fully understand the chatter on social media about this album because I have gone from zero to smitten in a very short space of time. ‘Chronicle II: Hypergenesis’ may not be exactly the kind of music I would normally gravitate towards immediately, but it is so good that I can’t help but get swept up in it. Unique, intelligent, heavy, and melodic – these are the adjectives I use when I think about this new album from Mountain Caller. And, in so doing, they have gained another fan and a convert to their own particular cause. If you’re not aware of the name Mountain Caller yet, please ensure that you rectify this as swiftly as possible, trust me.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%