In the ever-expanding world of metal, new bands seem to constantly be emerging and stepping up to the plate. DEATHCAVE is here to take a big swing with their debut full-length release, Smoking Mountain. Their is, at times, as haunting as its namesake (the Apache death cave in Winslow, Arizona) with lyrics to match. The general theme here focuses on the inexorable concept of the decay, demise, and death of humans and nature. While the lyrics are enough to sink into a depression, the music is a delightful combination of thrash, doom, and psychedelic metal. While at times haunting and dark, it has some lively high-energy moments mixed into the doomy haze. The trio formed in 2018 and released a three-song, self-titled demo last year. Their music is a captivating combination of metal sub-genres performed by just three skilled musicians. Smoking Mountain is an enticing introduction to DEATHCAVE and their experimental sound.
The album opens with guitar, adds aggressive drums, then harsh vocals. The momentum stays up in the title track, showing off the band’s thrashy side. While the remaining five tracks have doom, thrash, and psychedelic elements; the opener comes in hot with high energy and fury. Even the slower moments here feel heavy with power building, anticipating release. The second track, “Last Breath,” slows down and has a heavier, darker, doom sound. While I might be a bit biased due to my adoration of doom metal, this song is one of my favorites on Smoking Mountain. There is a quiet heaviness partway through “Last Breath” in the form of a guitar solo that then builds to add drums and pick up tempo, later introducing a psychedelic, reverberating guitar. This section is beautifully done and gave me goosebumps as I listened through headphones.
The remaining three tracks introduce a cast of guest vocalists. Smoking Mountain rises and falls keeping engagement and utilizing stylistic variety which makes DEATHCAVE’s sound unique. “The Road” brings back some thrash elements (including some stellar bass playing) and features the aggressive vocals of Dave Verellen of Botch. “The Seer” is the longest track of the album spanning just over 12 minutes. Here, the vocals of Andrea Vidal of Holy Grove are heard partway through the song and are a welcome change to the vocal harshness that has been heard throughout the album. Andrea Vidal’s vocals are a beautifully haunting addition. Her voice rings out in the darkness. The remaining track, “Poison Wizard,” features Neil McAdams of Black Breath. This track shows all sides of DEATHCAVE, bringing in a combination of elements heard in previous tracks. The album fades out as smoke does—drifting away steadily.
It is easy to lose myself in the haze of the music and float along with Smoking Mountain as I carry on about my day. This is an album that could be on repeat throughout the day, as long as you don’t mind being constantly reminded of your inevitable death. While I generally spend my day listening to true crime podcasts, this might actually be a more light-hearted alternative. As this is DEATHCAVE’s first full-length release, I look forward to what they produce in the future as they continue to work on their craft. For now, I will vibe to Smoking Mountain and drift with the smog.