Mountaineer – Sirens & Slumber (Lifeforce)Thursday, 27th April 2017
It was quite the bummer when California atmospheric metal outfit Secrets of the Sky unexpectedly called it quits last year. The band’s 2015 Pathway was a certifiable triumph of atmospheric splendor and post-metal dramatics, giving wonder to what was on the horizon. But alas, bands are delicate ecosystems. The first to emerge from the breakup is guitarist Clayton Bartholomew, who for a short spell, wrote for this very site. Beyond that, and perhaps more importantly, his new Mountaineer outfit successfully bridges the gap between his old band and new sonic frontiers on Sirens & Slumber.
Taking a slightly less metallic form than Secrets of the Sky, Mountaineer easily works its way through the spatial, airy corridors of atmospheric metal. Because of the emotive, somewhat lite vocals of Miguel Miza, there’s not the usual post-metal grunt-man-dude hanging around, for Miza could easily be fronting a pop-rock band if he were so inclined. But, his careful cadences on “Coma Fever” as well as “Pull the Blinds” are effective, particularly the latter, which finds the man piling on harmonies-a-plenty.
The album comes to a head on “Siren Song,” an Isis-on-Failure cut that is rife with spry melodies and angular riffing. Such a dreamy number often runs the risk of falling flat in the context of metal, but there’s enough texture and balance to make for a convincing argument. “Adrift” is another winner, highlighted by a more throaty delivery by Miza and some weighty riffing.
Bartholomew has already succeeded in making Mountaineer its own entity. While most spin-off bands often fall prey to old habits and tendencies, the surplus of distinctive, crisp riffing and melodic heft makes Sirens & Slumber a convincing debut.