Monday, September 10, 2012

Giant of the Mountain - Valley of the Rogue

Giant of the Mountain are a progressive death metal outfit hailing from Plano, Texas. Metal Archives calls them "technical death metal", but I'm going to go ahead and disagree with that label. They are currently a trio, but the bassist is a brand new addition. At the time of recording this, their newest full-length which came out just last month, they were a husband and wife duo with no additional members. This is their third album, but it was the first I'd heard of them.

I should begin by pointing out that the "full-length" label is pretty generous, given that this record consists entirely of a single 19-minute track. From what I can see, their previous full-length albums have been more conventionally structured, and only their 2010 EP is this short.

With that covered, on to the music itself. As you would expect, the flow that comes with a solid track throughout the album makes this a very cohesive work. It's also very interestingly composed, with the clearly audible and surprisingly active bass standing out as the real highlight of the record. The bass ranges from jazzy noodling to odd progressive riffs, providing a truly unique footing for this album among death metal releases. The other instruments, however, are not quite as interesting. The guitar riffs change up and they often seek new directions, but in an effort to be dynamic and creative they sometimes just come across as a bit aimless. There are moments where they really click, but unfortunately those tend to be somewhat fleeting. The drum work is fast in all the right places and seems to be generally pretty solid, but it's a little too low in the mix, which makes it difficult to follow in some places. Nonetheless the drumming provides a solid backbone, and aside from that slight balance issue the production on the album is fine, though not especially noteworthy.

The vocals are somewhat higher and thinner in tone than most death growls, and occasionally they even work their way up to borderline shrieking. There is a little touch of clean vocal work too, but not enough to feel intrusive. Personally I am a little conflicted about the vocals. On the one hand they are less dense than a more conventional growl, which is good because this band's style requires more room for the instrumentation to breathe. On the other hand, the tone of his voice honestly kind of grates on my nerves. This makes the vocals well-attuned to the needs of the music, but it also makes it hard for me to like them.

What I will say is that the uniqueness of this record has piqued my curiosity, and I may well find myself exploring their other material in the near future. However, the brevity of the album. combined with my distaste for the vocals and the hit-and-miss nature of the guitar work. prevents me from regarding this as highly as I would otherwise.

Grade: B-
Definitely interesting and worth checking out, but also notably flawed in some respects.

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