In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.
Here’s the way it usually works. Our illustrious editor gets in dozens and dozens of promos each week that he puts up on a Google doc for the writers, who converge like a pack of wild dogs, starving and scrabbling to get a cut of the juiciest meat. That’s how it usually works, but every so often you just come across something else, whether it’s an obscure band you found in you Bandcamp collection one day because of a label subscription with an AMAZING cover or a surprise drop from a band saying goodbye. In this edition of Second Circle we’re stepping away from the promo box to alert you, however briefly, to the wonders of Mountains Crave and Device. So let’s find those comfortable pants you wear when no one’s watching and dig in…
I would never have known about this Leeds based black metal band were it not for that frankly ridiculously great cover. Debut LP As We Were When We Were Not is melodic, measured black metal that focuses on the dark spiritual side of the mind, life and death and our constantly shifting place within it. Based on a 1962 lecture from Aldous Huxley (Brave New World, among other things) on visionary experience, the album shifts and permeates, alternating between cold blasts of repetitive riffs and and strong emphasis on melodic passages.
Opener “Ynisvitrin” carries this shifting mood to the rest of the tracks, trading off fast blasts with harmonized doom passages. “Clear Light of the Void” has some of the harshest pieces on the album, but then is calmed by open chords that bring a seeking, majestic feel to the song. Likewise the title track a shorter acoustic number that evokes in its weird way classic early 70s Pink Floyd. All told there’s a lot in As We Were When We Were Not to take in, and it’s worth your time to do so.
From a hello to a goodbye. Device raised the flag for good old fashioned traditional metal of the American meat and potatoes variety, never mind they were from Canada (actually, mind very much because Canadian metal has this habit of being amazing). This is boot stomping, car driving with the windows down and a bird emblazoned in fire on the hood of your car music. Alas, they are no more but were kind enough to drop their swan song Good Things Never Last just in time to help offset the heat of summer.
The homage and nods to the music that was as much as part of my formative years as it seems to be the the guys in Device is readily apparent from the second opener “The Anointed Ones” begins, with the roar of an imaginary crowd dissolving into the sweet riff that kicks the song off. The lock between Lloyd Agar on guitar and Kyle Harcott on drums gives the entire album a crisp forward momentum that’s a blast from beginning to end. On the vocal front Marc LeBlanc moves all over the map, channeling Jon Oliva on “Into the Sun” and the whole band kicking it into great on a cover of Rainbow’s “Starstruck” – a fitting cover since the album is dedicated to the memory of Ronnie James Dio. This is the music you want when it’s hot and you have a beer and you’re looking out over the town you grew up in, even if it’s in your own mind.
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope the soundtrack is heavy. Be seeing you.