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Smoke Mountain - Queen of Sin Award winner

Smoke Mountain
Queen of Sin
by Kira Schlechter at 17 May 2020, 12:06 AM

Doom metal done right is like the best pure, simple traditional blues – we’re talking ROBERT JOHNSON and MUDDY WATERS – just detuned and fuzzed out. SMOKE MOUNTAIN is exactly that – so basic and so stripped-down and so bare-bones…and so good. “Queen of Sin” is the trio’s debut album, following their self-titled 2017 EP. From Tallahassee, FL, the band is a family affair. Lee is married to Sarah and Brian is his younger brother.

The title track sets up the pattern for all the songs – Lee’s unforgettable bass-heavy guitar riff that serves as both low and high end and the rhythm too, accompanied by Brian’s extremely treble drums (to be more accurate, really mostly cymbal with touches of snare). It’s as under-produced to be almost non-existent, everything sounding like it was recorded with maybe one mic in garages in separate zip codes. It’s the lowest of low-fi. That is not a criticism. It’s purist.

Sarah’s lush, almost droning voice spins a tale that mixes references to God and the devil (“Holy Spirit/Holy Son/Revelation has begun”), in keeping with doom’s blues roots, here with a touch of humor – ”Cross my fingers/Hope you die,” she quips. “The Master Serpent” is almost like early DANZIG groove-wise and of course SABBATH thematically (“master serpent” being the devil of course). “Touch the Sun” is very much a drug song (“Come along to Reefer Land,” lures Sarah), and her voice, so suitable to the material, goes from purr to belt in the bridge.

“Midnight Woman” is a woman in thrall to the devil set to a suitably wicked riff; Sarah seduces with her deep, liquidy vocal. The solo section is just playing off the riff, and there is a bit of a bass line here, but it’s the low end of the guitar doing it. “I Walk Alone” is the barest of the bare at the start, just guitar and Sarah’s voice like a drift of smoke. It’s hollow and empty and bereft. I did wish I could hear her better since her voice tends to get lost in all the sludge, but that’s the point – it’s the atmosphere that matters, rather than an individual performance or part. But they’re very aware of those, too – that oh-so-subtle guitar descant in the chorus adds texture, as does the tiny bit of vocal harmony.

“Deathproof” has a quicker hip-shaking groove that’s a complete trip set to a riff straight out of some ‘50s detective show – when they add the handclaps to it later on, it’s a ridiculous blast. Sarah’s defiant snarl is in full gear here –”deathproof til I die,” she boasts. And the little drum breakdown is tinny and messy but perfectly effective. “Devil Woman” is another more uptempo track that pushes Sarah’s voice to almost an echo way back in the mix. If the other songs are undermixed, this one is under-undermixed, the drums barely there.

The closer, “End of Days,” is one of the longer tracks but it definitely has the fewest lyrics – the chorus, a reference to Revelation of course, is the title, just one line. We’re back to the slow grind with a major main riff – the bridge segues to one repeated detuned to hell riff before it goes back to the main one and the chorus.

“Queen of Sin” is all brilliant brevity, from the blink-and-you-miss-them solos to the lyrics themselves – a short verse or two, a quick chorus, done. Nothing goes on any longer than it has to. Like the best blues, the simplicity and repetition of the riffs and words makes you want to keep listening. And you can’t help but listen – it’s an aural drug. Rather than being boring, it lulls, hypnotizes, seduces. And like the best drug, it leaves you wanting more.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Queen of Sin
2. The Master Serpent
3. Touch the Sun
4. Midnight Woman
5. I Walk Alone
6. Deathproof
7. Devil Woman
8. End of Days
Sarah Pitt - Vocals
Lee Pitt - Guitar
Brian Pitt - Drums
Record Label: Independent


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Edited 05 June 2020

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