When I first started blogging, I started digging deeper than I had before to find where in Brooklyn the best heavy music was coming from, and when I started digging, Mountain God was one of the first bands I came across. I instantly warmed up to sound of the 2013 EP, disturbingly entitled Experimentation on the Unwilling, which combined traditional doom aesthetics with a unique and innovative use of synth and vocal processors to create a continuous atmosphere of fear and foreboding, draped like a dusty sheet over walls of amplification and pounding rhythms. Today, they release the follow-up, a 1-song, 19-minute piece entitled Forest of the Lost, which shows the band taking their own style to its logical yet challenging progression. Forest of the Lost truly shows Mountain God coming into their own as a band capable of crafting dense and daring explorations of darkness and grief.
I love how Forest of the Lost begins, or rather, how it approaches us, because it opens with a fade-in that suggests the song has actually not just started, but has only now gotten close enough that we can hear it. It gives the sense of a procession stretching indefinitely into the past, a lumbering caravan of lost souls trudging endlessly, aimlessly through some vast emptiness. And right from this start we hear a sound underlaid by swirling ephemera, which is trademark to Mountain God’s take on doom. The result is something akin to the moans and wails of the damned, echoing throughout some huge, empty citadel. Or, that’s what I pictured, anyway. Of course, underneath it are some more recognizable aspects of the traditional doom sound, but when vocals come in we see another instance of Mountain God separating themselves from the pack through a fixation on atmospherics. Deeply processed and buried in the mix, these vocals serve a purpose which is above all sonic, adding to the singular sound of this plodding caravan rather than standing above as a distinguished voice. Scathing and distant, they add depth and expanse to the music, but are nuanced and inflected in a way that you don’t see often enough in the typically monotonous vocal stylings which appear much more frequently within the genre.
Throughout its almost-twenty-minute run, Forest of the Lost maintains an impressive balance between consistency and diversity. By this I mean that in its form, the piece very clearly resembles a single mass, amorphous but constant, that is able to shift and progress but is nonetheless largely immune to distraction. However, closer looks and second listens reveal a much greater depth of detail, and this applies equally to the song’s structure and texture. Around the 6-minute mark, it takes its first significant departure from the initial, relatively uniform, sequence of riffs, and we get one of those spacey interludes a la “Whole Lotta Love” or “Magic Carpet Ride”. And while too many examples of this kind of thing amount to little more than ill-advised (and very stoned) attempts to “freak out” the listener, Mountain God’s descent into the ephemeral always comes off as deliberate, purposeful, and effective.
I don’t know how “into” Dante the guys from Mountain God are, so it’s hard for me to say how intentional this was, but for a Dant-vo-tee such as myself, it’s absolutely impossible to hear a title like “Forest of the Lost” and not instantly picture the exiled Florentine poet, nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, awaking to find himself, well, lost in a forest:
And it’s appropriate not only because The Inferno is full of badass and doomy imagery, but because Dante’s power as the supreme poet of the Middle Ages stems, more than anything else, from his ability to achieve the sublime. Even though he operates within the very medieval tradition of allegory over realism, he nonetheless appeals to the real experience of the individual in a way that had never been dreamt of previously. We see throughout his work the juxtaposition of the smallest thing (the individual and his experience) with the biggest thing (God and his design). This is mirrored in his hitherto-unheard-of use of the vernacular instead of Latin: meager tools, but the loftiest of ambition. And the end result which Dante achieved more fully than anyone before him, and whose influence over the art of subsequent centuries cannot possibly be measured, is that of effect, of the ability of a poem like The Comedy to transport any reader, any individual, to the realm of the sublime, where we can envision ourselves touching God just as Dante did, even from the comfort of our own homes.
I’d like to think that doom metal can have the same power, and it’s great to see a band like Mountain God striving for it.
Mountain God will be celebrating the release of Forest of the Lost TONIGHT at The Acheron, along with Imperial Triumphant, Hercyn, and Dreadlords. Click here for the event page.