Mountains Crave – As We Were When We Were Not

Rating: 5/5
Released: 2017
Label/Distributor: Avant Garde Music
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D.H – Vocals
M.M – Guitar
J.D – Guitar
O.J – Bass
R.S – Drums


1. Ynisvitrin
2. Istigkeit (We Saw Them Of Old)
3. Clear Light Of The Void
4. Arise O Magnificent Sun
5. As We Were When We Were Not
6. Theophany


It’s a bold opener to a review, but I will wager that this is the best black metal album that has been, or will be, released this year.
It’s fucking fantastic.

In the sense of balance, I should probably state that as “one man’s trash etc…” I expect a lot of people are going to disagree with this, but that’s because this album is also more than a little bit weird.

As background, this is the debut album from a group hailing from Leeds (not that that should be surprising given that this is a city that gave us some of the greatest goth bands; evidently there’s something depressing about the North of England, although I can’t think what). They claim to have been particularly influenced by at least one of Aldous Huxley’s lectures to MIT, and this is, I believe, extremely evident.

The six, all singly excellent, tracks betray both skill and thoughtfulness. ‘Ynisvitrin’ forgoes the usual synth, creepy 60-second intro, to be a dark and slightly restrained metal single. ‘Istigkeit (We Saw Them Of Old)’ follows up by slamming you in the face with a wall of, actually quite melodic, sound, with the final cadential point being counterintuitively positive – even if whilst hearing someone scream “we know nothing…”. This is my favourite track probably, apart from ‘Theophany’, which is a stunning finale: basically a nine minute crescendo to choral backdrops and a hypnotic, repetitive rhyming structure of creation, jubilation, congregation, contagion….awake!

What’s utterly stunning about this figuratively, and literally, atmospheric work is just how beautiful it is, in an empty, existential kind of way. It’s like Kierkegaard forcing you to stand naked in front of the mirror, or, on a more prosaic level, Brian Cox smiling at the sky. Whilst I have obviously never broken the law by taking any kind of controlled hallucinogenic (weren’t me, ‘onest guv), I can see exactly how this speaks on a kind of subconscious or transcendental way that hallucinogens would.

I’ve given this my first ever five out of five (admittedly from not many reviews) as I’ve tried to think of a way this could be objectively more perfect. Whilst there are definitely albums I prefer, I can’t think how this could be any better at what it does. It’s dark, empty, beautiful, intelligent, and leaves you feeling both exhausted and energised. I’ve already ordered it, and if you’ve read thus far, you should too.

Review by Bob Davidson