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Mount Salem - Endless

Mount Salem
by H.P. Buttcraft at 04 March 2014, 11:12 PM

If you have read my review for the MIST demo that was published a short while back, you’d know by now that I am a fan of female-fronted Doom Metal bands. When done right, it can take you to some really far out places. I never really thought that a band could screw up that badly with the formula of Woman plus Stoner Rock band equals 1970’s Proto-Metal Revival.  I never really noticed too much mediocrity with bands like ACID KING or JEX THOTH but then along came MOUNT SALEM.

If anyone is going to have a conversation with you about MOUNT SALEM, they will have an impossible time talking about with mentioning their vocalist Emily Kopplin. She isn’t real hard to spot in the band’s promo pictures since she sticks out like a sore thumb in the lineup. I don’t think I’m the first person to ask ‘what is this fair creature doing in this band of bearded degenerates?’ She reminds me of some girls I occasionally see at Metal shows that look bored and unmotivated to be there and don’t really do anything but stand around silently before gravitating back to their boyfriend or girlfriend. But this is a music scene, not a fashion scene or a dating scene. Yes, she’s quite attractive, but what good does that do for the music or for anyone else, really?

Despite having a beautiful organist-slash-vocalist, the presence of Emily Kopplin becomes a double-edged sword for MOUNT SALEM. She provides on the sex appeal for the promo photos and live shows and the ominous church organs give a nice touch to the songs (I think she might be a TYPE O NEGATIVE fan but I don’t know for sure) but her voice isn’t all what the audience anticipates. She isn’t a bad vocalist but by comparison to some of Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal’s leading ladies, her musical personality comes off as timid and her voice is flat and cold. She doesn’t take that superficial sex appeal and put it into the way she sings these songs, nearly spoiling killer Rock ditties like “The Tower” and “Mescaline II”. If she’s supposed to be the wild card of the group, why can’t she at least bring something unique or exciting to the table?

She hits the same high notes and melodies on “Endless” over and over again, each one sounding like she is trying harder and harder to reach those notes at every attempt. You can tell that she is going for a singing style to match the 1970’s-era Ozzy Osbourne, who could reach those same exact high notes in the same register. But Ms. Kopplin doesn’t have the same soulful approach to the music even The Prince of Darkness himself can’t each hit those notes anymore. If Kopplin continues forcing her voice to match that sound while she is physically straining herself, she can expect to meet the same fate. Again, I don’t want to say that Kopplin is a bad singer but some vocal lessons will assist her from not blowing her voice out.

I don’t think the musicianship is worth saying too much about either. Its not bad at all but… meh! Its Stoner Rock riffs without any crazy solos or bizarre modern twists on boutique tones and levels. Everything fits right into place as it should be but bass and guitar don’t stick out to me. However, I think the work of Corey Davidson, MOUNT SALEM’s drummer, is fabulous and redeems the strings and organ parts. Bill Ward would be proud.

I am not the only one that feels like there is something else to MOUNT SALEM that is unpleasant. Fans of bands like CASTLE, JEX THOTH & BLOOD CEREMONY might not even like this re-release. They have already pointed out how painfully obvious it is that the name MOUNT SALEM is a derivative of WITCH MOUNTAIN and they both play female-fronted 70’s Doom revival. It seems to be a clone of all these other Doom revival bands that was put together by a producer with the unoriginal idea of ‘what if PENTAGRAM had a female vocalist’ and trying to capitalize on the genre’s resurgence in popularity. The fallacy is thinly veiled by the fact that this is coming from Metal Blade Records, one of the bigger record labels for Heavy Metal music.

MOUNT SALEM doesn’t break any molds or ground but they are young and fresh. It will take some time before they become grizzled, callous Doom rockers like their peers. Until then, they will become lost relatively quickly in the shuffle of highly anticipated releases yet to come out in 2014 unless they can pull themselves together by 2015.  

3 Star Rating

1. Good Times
2. The Tower
3. Lucid
4. Full Moon
5. Mescaline
6. Mescaline II
7. Hysteria
8. The End
Mark Hewett – Bass
Cody Davidson – Drums
Kyle Morrison – Guitar
Emily Kopplin – Vocals / Organ
Record Label: Metal Blade Records


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