Mountain Man’s debut full-length, Grief, is a concept album about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. While certainly not the most original or ambitious concept for an album, Mountain Man (hailing from Worcester, MA) give us 17 tracks of dark, blistering hardcore. Musically and lyrically, this album channels all five stages of grief. But does it work?
Given the concept of the record, these songs are as ugly and in-your-face as one could expect. The first four tracks deal with the first stage of grief: denial. This first stage is abrasive and chaotic right out of the gate. The songs are powerful but restrained at the same time, like somebody trying to accept and deny a tragedy all at once. Anger is (not surprisingly) the fastest and most caustic section of the record. You can feel the venom from the biting guitars and vocals. The lack of bass in this recording only amplifies the unpleasantness. Bargaining and depression take up the bulk of the album, and both stages are similar. The biggest departure in sound comes during “Depression III”, which is strangely beautiful and sorrowful. It’s a welcome break from the onslaught. The stage of acceptance is my least favorite on the record. It just doesn’t fit with what I think acceptance should be. The first of two tracks is incredibly dissonant and eerie, whereas I would expect it to be somewhat reserved. The last song just sounds like the other songs. Normally this wouldn’t be a bad thing, but there needs to be a sense of closure when dealing with acceptance. This album has no closure; which might be the point, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.
Here is my complaint. There is not nearly enough differentiation between the stages. Musically, not much changes from denial to anger, or depression to acceptance, when in reality a person in these different stages of grief hardly seems like the same individual. This album could have benefited from a broader range of sounds to help make each stage stand out from one another. I feel as if the tracks could be rearranged in a completely different order and it would neither harm nor improve the flow of the album. When dealing with subject matter of this nature, it’s important to see the process. I feel as if a more experienced band could have handled this concept better.
This is by no means an attack on Mountain Man, however. This is one of the most promising bands in hardcore right now, and Grief is easily one of the better hardcore releases so far in 2011. This is an incredibly solid effort, but in my eyes the concept takes away from the music. I would have enjoyed this record even more if I wasn’t trying to connect everything to the concept it tries to explore. That being said, this is definitely an album you need to hear to decide for yourself.
8.0 / 10
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