“As We Were When We Were Not” (AW5N) is the debut album of Leeds, UK black metal band MOUNTAINS CRAVE. On their Bandcamp page, they cite Aldous Huxley’s 1962 lecture on visionary experience as inspiration. The list of themes explored is intriguing, with those listed including spiritual enlightenment, death and the afterlife, and humankind’s kinship and subsequent alienation from the universe.
The album has an organic feel overall, as if to remind us that many of us have a “nature deficit disorder” – we don’t realise that we are part of nature, and it’s part of us at the same time. All of the musical parts are well-balanced, and Tom Garner’s rich bass add to that organic feel.
Danny Heaton’s vocals sound like a howling wind, which suits the album well. His screams add an emotional coda to “Ynisvitrin”, and his rasps are particularly powerful on “Clear Light of the Void” and “Theophany”. The clean vocals were applied in just the right places, and added a lightness to the rougher black metal parts. “Clear Light of the Void” has a beautiful acoustic passage accompanied only by an ethereal-sounding female vocalist. I was also impressed by the songwriting – the band makes great use of both silence and softer parts; when these phenomena appeared, they added a sense of surprise without derailing the song.
MOUNTAINS CRAVE end their album on a truly magnificent note, with the grand number that is “Theophany”. The word means “a visible manifestation to humankind of God or a god”. The swelling synths, emotion-filled riffs and powerful drumming all come together to create a sense of awe, as if some long-forgotten forest god had appeared right before my eyes.
“As We Were When We Were Not” is a wonderful addition to the more atmospheric side of black metal. The band’s passion for their music shines through throughout, and they’ve done justice to the subject matter they set out to explore.