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A silver lining in low cloud cover - 84%

Gutterscream, December 31st, 2007

With a Rainbow-scented name that’s old school even for ’83, Silver Mountain may be what fellow Swedes Axewitch and E.F. Band thought they could sound like by this time and failed.

Blurb of historical insignificance: guitarist/vocalist Jonas Hansson trudged up through the late ‘70s with this project in his tired arms, relief coming ever so briefly with a very early and very forgotten Man of No Present Existence single. Local musicians marched in and out of the line-up (along with someone named Yngwie, or so it is fabled). Late ’82 saw Roadrunner throw him a hand and with that, brains started a’ shakin’.

While not really an important part of the underground (then or now), the foursome put together some valiantly written and reasonably stimulating stuff for the times, a sound cut and bleeding on the shiny edges of Rainbow, later Deep Purple, not-yet-united Rising Force, and a nwo!hm-born up-swing; not exactly a resoundingly ‘wow’ concept, but its global taste test is better than the on-paper recipe. Malmsteen-isms, all significant and pre-Rising Force, are found smeared bubbling in several tracks, methodical “Always” and hyper “Necrosexual Killer” being good back-to-back examples with Jens Johansson’s keyboard solos displacing all-anticipated Yngwie, plus the songs’ overall compositional dynamics…yeah, if you’ve ever wondered (though I know you probably haven’t) about the roots of Rising Force thru Odyssey….

Anyway, things are much more smiley than sullen and classically-minded without shining bona fide all hours of the day (maybe only 23 hours). Most anyone within body heat distance can ride Silver Mountain’s vitality with ease, saddled on the album’s tangible electric zing triggered by organ-fueled “Spring Maiden”, harpsichord’s revenge “Vikings”, Maiden-y “Aftermath”, and virile “Destruction Song”. Musicianship swims in a clean sea of harmony. The track list is spaced nicely as rambunctious tracks aren’t jostled next to one another and slower ones don’t sleep together on a soft mattress. Hard-breather “Looking for You” jogs up the middle lane between hot wings “Viking” and “Spring Maiden”, then in the next path is restful and relaxed piano ballad “King of the Sea”, rubbing the shoulder with strong and sexy finale “Keep on Keepin’ on”; pretty formulaic actually, but tied together better than many other discs.

Despite all this lp floats with, keeping it earth-grounded are a few little inconsistencies…well, besides a doofy album cover, maybe one. Hansson is a better guitarist than singer as opening galloper “1789” and his off key moments attest, but he does surprisingly well in the much more delicate “King of the Sea”, so go figure. On the whole, his performance is an even declaration of average, yet maintained strength. He’s not bad, though also not great, but successfully fends off those awfully adolescent intimations many of his then and earlier peers often preened.

There’s a good thing here with Shakin’ Brains, a slab that’s confident, snappy, and savvy yet smacked by a small hand of imperfection. First Jens, then brother Anders over to Malmsteen’s classic project (and the significance comes full circle), then after various stops in-between, singly with Stratovarius and Hammerfall.