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Very good epic melodic post-BM with scope for more - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, October 20th, 2013

By necessity I'm reviewing this album as one whole opus instead of a collection of (possibly) related songs as I cannot read Chinese. So far this self-titled EP is the only recording made by the quartet from Tai'an in north-central China.

Track 1 is a lilting and melancholy all-ambient piece dominated by weeping acoustic guitar and background outdoor ambience with birdsong and the sounds of water. When the album kicks in, the music is clearly black metal with melodic rock and blues elements, ambient field recordings and passages of acoustic music. Production is very clear especially in sections where the black metal leaves off and there is only dreamy acoustic strings and bird twitter. I see a parallel with the Cascadian black metal bands and some other ecologically oriented USBM acts here. Some listeners might think there are melodic folk music elements but as the demo under review is by a Chinese BM band, the "folk music" found here is perhaps properly called melodic acoustic soft rock, there being very few native Chinese folk tunes and rhythms here. In one track, the acoustic music almost sounds like flamenco.

The songs are quite epic and emotional, and the music is very layered with beautifully clear string orchestration (which doesn't have the fake warmth of synth-generated strings but then synthesisers have come a long way since their arrival in the 1960s) and solo violin melodies. The black metal music often serves to introduce a track and provide a jump-off point for long passages of improvised music drawing influences from various genres. When DM do BM, their delivery can be very subtle and intelligent: the music is buzzy enough but the musicians sculpt it deftly and in most tracks, even when the black metal element is very minor, there are never moments when you think "there's not enough" or "there's too much". The vocals can be very raw and the emotion in them is intense and heartfelt.

Most tracks begin and end with ambient music to the accompaniment of bird conversations. The tracks aren't greatly different from one another, featuring as they do a constant rain of buzzing BM guitar noise, clean percussion, and competent grim singing that sometimes achieves heights of intense emotion and anguish in howls and screams. The music usually starts quietly and lightly and gradually yet inexorably builds up with additional layers of instrumentation and thicker sound textures, melody upon melody, and greater tension and emotion. The effect can be very monumental and the music does acquire a tragic majesty that feels very sincere. Songwriting craft is good: the musicians know how to bring down a song gracefully and end it once they have made their point or the music reaches its climax. There can be moments in the middle of the album where single-minded focus seems a bit lost and the musicians wander about; that could be intentional, a part of what the album is about. They also need to be careful about how they drop soft acoustic music into the songs to avoid deflating the tension and losing the musical momentum.

There might be room for some psychedelic elements and unusual sound effects in the band's repertoire. On Track 5, the guitarist indulges in some whippy little feedback exercises near the start before the BM whirlwind picks up everyone and barrels along at speed. Unlike previous songs, this is a very urgent piece and features some excellent lead guitar work in off-key moments. Deeply immersive and meditative trance music with the potential to transform listeners' consciousness and transport them to a higher spiritual realm would not be beyond these guys' capabilities.

Few atmospheric BM albums that use field recordings of outdoor ambience integrate forest, bird and other sounds so completely into the music. Few such albums also express drama and emotion so emphatically throughout. Listening to this recording, I think of bands like Wolves in the Throne Room and even everyone's favourite late 1990s post-rockers Godspeed You Black Emperor. (Yes I know GYBE got back together but I haven't heard anything much from them that reaches their old glory.) Deep Mountains do have the potential to be China's answer to those epic post-rock bands. They will need to have an original angle so that they are not simply Chinese clones; drawing on their country's musical heritage and philosophy might help them in that respect.

Deep Mountains - 90%

IxI_KILLING, August 22nd, 2011

We live in a time where the human race has become ungrateful and lazy when it comes to finding new music, especially from other countries. Coming from a music fan but primarily a fan of heavy metal music and it’s extreme counterparts, I believe that if you dig deep and wide enough across this entire world, you can discover some of the most amazing work musically to ever exist. As a writer or someone that just types down mumbo-jumbo, I can’t be lazy in discovering the next diamond among the rough in the scene of metal. If I was just your average run of the mill person that only scratched the surface with music, certain bands would never be heard about or exposed. No, I’m not taking credit in discovering certain bands but to me, I feel a deep passion and love for the bands that dwell deep beneath the dirt of this world. Certain bands like Deep Mountains, a black metal project from Tai’an & Shandong, China that has been creeping through my skin since I first heard them a couple weeks ago.

Something that has always intrigued me about the Chinese is that the symbols they use for their writing and the Chinese language in general, might be one of the hardest to learn and/or understand. With that said, I was very pleased when I heard that Deep Mountains was sticking to their native tongue and doing everything in Chinese. From the song titles to the record name, even to the lyrics. “深山”, or in English, “Deep Mountains”, is the self-titled debut EP that was released last July from this abnormally large giant of a band. “深山(Deep Mountains)” is a record full of honor, pride, muscle and beautiful sceneries that capture the vast landscapes that China has to offer. If I had to use one word to describe it, I would have to go with prodigious. Prodigious, if some of you don’t know, the word means gigantic, enormous and huge. The reason I use that word is because from the first second this record starts up to the very last chord and whisper of the guitars, you get consumed and overshadowed by this mammoth of a record.

While I was bouncing around the vortex of confusion that I call genres, “山魂(Mountain Soul)“, the second track on the record, proved to me that Deep Mountains is a black metal band with very open minds. With distorted guitar riffs, grunting, high pitch screams and merciless drumming sections, they somehow still deliver a vast amount of melodic atmosphere that wrap you up like a spider web would. Even though “深山(Deep Mountains)” does provide you with a hurricane of mixtures between genres, mainly folk and black metal, the band seems to feed you more black metal over the course of this record than anything else. In all honesty, I see the folk influence as a woman that won’t ever give you want you want, more like she enjoys teasing you with what you drool over. Maybe Deep Mountains enjoy making me drool over the more folk influenced sections. If that’s the case, mission accomplished guys but even though I can enjoy those folk sections, the black metal in large amounts really does provide a satisfaction and hunger for more.

As I said before, this EP is prodigious and so much in a way that I feel like if I put this record among the beast inside the Chinese jungles, it would still tower over everything in sight. Mountain lions would coward away like small kitty cats while the Chinese warriors would run for their lives and begin begging not to be eaten alive. “深山(Deep Mountains)” is the behemoth of China, it’s relentless and bears the sword to slaughter anything in it’s path. On the flip side, this record could also be the joyful sensation to sooth ones soul from any wars it might be fighting. One thing I can tell you and I’ve thought about this long and hard for the past several days, I would love to see what Deep Mountains could do with a full fledged black metal record and a front to back folk record. If it sounds this good mixed up together, I can't even imagine what it would sound like separated.

Originally written for: http://bloodorlove.domesticgenocide.com/