Within the past few years, there has been a rise in popularity in music that plays an old school, 70's style of stoner and doom metal, with bands like Orchid, Blood Ceremony and Ghost coming to mind as some of the more well known names at the moment although there are plenty more. And the latest addition to this long list of retro metal bands are fellow Chicago natives Mount Salem. The simply named "Endless" is the debut effort for these guys to put out their own branch of Occultist doom metal to the table and, despite being an EP has the time length to be considered a full length album, and with it's release has already gained a bit of a following and is beginning to make themselves more well known amongst the metal and rock community. And when listening, there is a definite presence to the sound that does warrant some attention.
There are some very thick, very heavy, very sludgy riffs that have a, in a word, groovy vibe to them, making each song this huge wall of sound that, while are heavy, are also both melodic and catchy. Its very familiar ground for Black Sabbath listeners and will undoubtedly appeal to anyone who is into more psychedelic and stoner based music, but another aspect about the sound the sticks out are the vocals which are fantastic. Preformed by Emily Kopplin, she hits some great range with her high, somewhat mournful voice that sounds genuine and passionate and emotive, sounding really beautiful and she shines as the stand out performer of the music. Also adding to it is the organ (also preformed by Kopplin) having a very psychedelic, kinda trippy sound to them and its put into the mix perfectly. This adds a lot of depth to the music, because when they come in, they have a strong presence to them, giving the music an almost eerie, ominous atmosphere. So on a musical level, the EP is very heavy, thick, catchy, easy to follow, easy to understand, as well as eerie and dark sounding, making it instantly enjoyable.
Now that's all well and good, but some things become obvious as one goes through the songs, and that is its lack of variety, lack of ideas and overall lack of identity when comparing it to the many other bands of this genre, and this is where the EP begins to fall apart for me. You see this EP does a lot of good things, but it also lacks a lot that makes a band stand out and lacks certain things that make more than just a superficial form of entertainment. Many of the songs feel the same and follow a very similar structure, they also don't do anything terribly inventive or unique and instead follow a very safe and very typical sound that's very standard in this genre. The result of this is that the band lacks an identity and doesn't stick out and puts them in an original frame that separates them from the rest of the pack, as opposed to other recent bands who play this and do things to separate themselves. For example, two bands I mentioned at the start of this review, Orchid and Blood Ceremony, both play this retro classic metal style, but, with Orchid, there music has a lot of creative riffs and song structures that make it, on a technical level more interesting to listen to, and Blood Ceremony, who while playing a more safe, by the book style, add things like acoustics and flute and some other folk elements to keep the music varied and keep it interesting. Mount Salem on the other hand, plays things very, very traditional and by the book, without ever doing anything at all inventive or creative and never makes any attempt to vary the sound whatsoever. The problem with this is that, once the novelty of the positives I listed earlier wears off, the EP doesn't have much to go back to and I found myself getting a little bored about halfway through it.
"Endless" is a fairly solid first effort, putting out some very entertaining and likable material, but at the same time is also very uniform and a bit too much to the point, making it hard to stay interested after the first few listens and also keeps it lacking in character and identity needed to keep it out of the pack. I do want to see this band's future and see what they do with it as, even though this EP does suffer in the end, these guys show a lot of potential.