Mountaineer – Passages (Lifeforce)

Tuesday, 19th June 2018
Rating: 8/10

Barely a year after their impressive Sirens & Slumber debut, California post-metal ensemble Mountaineer are back with their second foray, Passages. Written by guitarist Clayton Bartholomew over the span of three weeks in a stream of conscious where nothing was rewritten or deleted (talk about restraint), Passages, like its predecessor, is really the utter definition of what American post-metal should be, all wrapped up in dreamy riffing, dreamy, relaxed vocals and dreamy melodies abloom.

Mountaineer play the post-metal card so well because they don’t try to be something they’re not, which, is sometimes the case with bands of a similar thread. There’s little motivation to operate outside of the basic boundaries of the sound — it’s an encapsulating “-post” listen through and through. The album is comprised of two 20-minute songs broken down into several individual songs, or “passages.” Thus, the often half-time drums, big cymbal crashes and guitar delay pedal usage are used to maximum effect, starting with opener “Hymnal: Passage I,” which finds the band parting the skies for some sunny-day post-metal optimism. There are some dark shades to the album, in particular, standout “Hymnal: Passages IV,” a cut that finds vocalist Miguel Miza volleying between solemn notes and cathartic screams.

The second half displays the same sort of variety, most notably the obvious differences in mood between “Catacombs: Passages II,” a cut that features some of Bartholomew’s most choice riffing, and “Catacombs: Passages III,” which is where the “bright” version of Mountaineer comes in. It’s a constant serve-and-volley that makes Passages a harmonious listen, where existential questions are the norm, as is top-rung post-metal.

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