Review Summary: An artist dabbling with a musical planet that has only recently had its parameters laid out, Spiralmountain carves the way to success, albeit with a couple of missteps.
The realm of instrumental metal has truly blossomed lately, as we can see from the bombastic releases of both Scale the Summit and Animals as Leaders, both of which solidified the genre as something truly worth being acquainted with. The idea of vocals being essential to music to carry the mood has been practically rendered inaccurate to a fault, as instruments alone have proven themselves to be capable of creating such nonchalantly blistering atmospheres, and this fact has inevitably led to many flocking to the scene, wanting to prove their mettle at the style that has been expounded on, rapidly, by the likes of Cloudkicker and his less recognizable peers. Of course, there are downsides to this massive migration to a scene that was so refreshingly scant several years ago, but it would be silly to frown upon the fact that there are many more artists now stepping out from the shadows, exposing themselves with their ambitions on their sleeve. Spiralmountain is a remarkable example of an artist dabbling with a musical planet that has only recently had its parameters laid out.
New to the scene but still offering much to those that enjoy the frenetic sensibilities of instrumental metal, Arkansas denizen Erik Ebsen lays out his most immediate influences on his Bandcamp page, tastefully leaving out any question of from where his style has developed. Cloudkicker’s earlier leanings towards the djent tone is one that Ebsen unquestionably draws influence from, and those that feel bored with the artists that use djent don’t need to be worried, for the music is tastefully executed, leaving moments of atmosphere to draw in those that are wary. Tracks such as “Mammals” display the proficiency that Spiralmountain has trained himself towards, the colossal riffs that rightfully leave the listener rather impressed, and the fact that seemingly out of nowhere the man can make his music seem so visceral is perhaps the most endearing trait of Spiralmountain’s latest album.
The biggest downfall is the album’s sometimes uncomfortably derivative nature, during the more subdued moments where Ebsen seems to struggle a little more with the execution of his ideas. “Tundra” is a track that stands out not because of its boring riffs, but the more questionable trait of this song, the lackluster presentation of the other instruments. The drums just do not sound good when they aren’t hammering away double bass alongside the guitar, for example, and the guitar parts feel startlingly less focused when a more technically loose endpoint exists; this limitation tends to obstruct the potential of Spiralmountain to truly blossom as his predecessors have.
All in all, Spiralmountain’s self-titled release (a name that definitely may have come from the legendary Banjo-Kazooie) is immensely promising. As we witness even more musicians testing their skill at the dense, raw instrumental energy that Ben Sharp himself has found himself mastering throughout the last several years, Spiralmountain will have to search for methods of staying relevant and being separated from the crowd, and while he released a refreshingly enjoyable debut, only time will tell if his sense of musical direction broadens, leaving him with much more tools to build his inevitably excellent next album.