‘Endless’ by Mount Salem is the band’s 2014 debut album. The Chicago quartet has been on my radar screen for a while now, and I’m glad that I finally purchased their CD. Because it exceeded my expectations, to say the least. I must admit, I was a bit skeptical at first, just because I was afraid that drama and theatrical elements could play too much of a role in the band’s approach to the material. It’s simply a matter of personal preference, but anything potentially pompous is a massive turn-off for me. And based on Mount Salem’s bandcamp website, their music is generally associated with genres such as rock, doom, horror, metal, psychedelic, etc. So, I knew there were keyboards involved and a female vocalist. The latter sounded encouraging – I love Lori S. of Acid King, Dorthia of Windhand, Elin of Blues Pills and a bunch of other cool front-women – the former, though, namely the keyboards, worried me a bit. Horror, keyboards…well, there was at least a chance that this whole thing might not necessarily turn out to be my cup of tea.
Well, as it turns out, my worries were unwarranted. ‘Endless’ is a unique, well-balanced, yet straight -forward compilation of Mount Salem material. I wouldn’t call it a concept album, but I do feel because of its cohesiveness, the 8 tracks featured on the record are the foundation of a storyline. Smart arrangements, a solid production and an ultra-tight band performance is the trademark of ‘Endless’. And yes, the dreaded keyboards are in there, but Emily Kopplin – lead vocalist and in charge of the keys – used them wisely, just to add the right amount of atmosphere in order to accentuate certain elements, and – thankfully – not to expose the listener to an onslaught of tritone and flatted fifth intervals.
Speaking of Emily, if you don’t instantaneously fall in love with her voice, then I can’t help you. The longer I listen to ‘Endless’, the more I come to realize how brilliantly, yet effortlessly she navigates through even the most challenging vocal passages. It leaves me in total amazement, each and every time. As you listen to her singing, pay attention to when she holds certain notes with incredible volume, sustain and control – and for the most part, without vibrato! I confess I’m not the best critic when it comes to judging vocal performances – after all, I can’t sing ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ without causing people to jump off a cliff – but even with my inadequate expertise and skills in that department, I’m just completely blown away when Emily belts out those notes.
Now, to be clear, what makes Mount Salem great is the fact that they are coming together as band and unit. While the vocals are undeniably a prominent omnipresence, the three gentlemen responsible for guitar, bass and drums deliver big time, too. Kyle Morrison’s guitar sound and playing couldn’t be any more conducive to the band’s general approach to their material. Crisp and sassy riffs (wow, I think I just invented the term ‘sassy riffs’…) paired with thoughtful soloing, always supporting the song and not trying to take the spotlight, rank extremely high in my book.
In my opinion, the same is true for Cody Davidson on drums and Mark Hewett on bass. Since the early Sabbath we all know that having a strong vocal presence and killer-guitar is nothing without a rhythm section that not only holds everything together, but also shines as an individual entity in its own right, go hand in hand.
Here is the tracklist of ‘Endless’ by Mount Salem:
1. Good Times
2. The Tower
4. Full Moon
6. Mescaline II
8. The End
Well, smart move on Metal-Blade Records to put Mount Salem under contract. Now, I do hope that the band is not dormant. I was not really successful in finding out what they’re doing right now, if they are on a hiatus, touring or working on new material (which would be AWESOME!). Also, I’m a bit worried looking at Mount Salem’s bandcamp-page, it seems all their merchandise is ‘sold out’. Well, hopefully we will get some news soon so we know what’s going on. Anyway, here is what I need you to do right now: Go and buy the album, you can get it from here
(amazon), that’s where I bought it. Then, check out the band’s Facebook page and leave a ‘Like’, etc.
In sum, Mount Salem, in opinion, is a fantastic band and I sure hope that ‘Endless’ is just the beginning. Again, while I do realize it all ultimately just boils down to personal perception and preference, I can’t emphasize enough how pleased I was that the band clearly keeps the focus of their material/performance on conveying the spirit of the song as opposed to theatrics and drama. Call it whatever you want: Doom, Psychedelic, Metal…I’m at an age where I can say: it’s all Rock ‘n’ Roll to me.
I love Rock ‘n’ Roll, because it’s good music. And Mount Salem makes good music! Period.