My discovery of In the Shadow of the Mountain was a complete and utter surprise. When meeting music-related people, there's always a sort of vague background in music that goes mostly undiscussed i.e. bands are bands and music-writers are writers and never the two shall meet. I've hear tell of musicians who also worked as writers but it never seems to be at the same time (Josephine Olausson from Love Is All being my only known exception).
In The Shadow of the Mountain is the work of professional journalist/drummer Dale W. Eisinger, guitarist Anthony Zaccheo formed in their hometown of Boise, Idaho, the band have more or less disbanded (but not really, existing more in a state of questionable hiatus). Earlier this year the band played at Treefort Music Festival which coincidentally coincided with the release of their album release In the Shadow of the Mountain and the Burnt River Bridge on a Barn Owl Records. Recorded in 2009, it's taken some time for the release to see the light of day, and yet it's a pretty stellar thing to have adorn your hard drive. Filled with tracks that slide seamlessly into each other and more than a handful of fuzzy, jangly jams that pit guitar and drums are pretty much equal footing, ...and the Burnt River Bridge is an album that manages to give this year's releases a run for their money.
While each song is connected, weaving a cohesive spell-binding whole, the album is not without its notable highlights. "Now, Apocalypse" follows immediately after the buzzy sonic-experimentation of "Legacy of Failure" and marks the band’s first actual entrance of the band as whole. Building organically from the dying strains of its predecessor, "Now, Apocalypse" features steady, staccato drum hits while a breezy guitar lines snakes around stitching the track's necessary foundation before the vocals with all their harmonic splendor enter. It's catchy and ear-grabbing without seeming hokey as it takes its time carefully establishing itself.
Lying at the almost exact center of the 9 song debut album however is "Hey, Hey" - a definite favorite. Warm and bright, much like "Now, Apocalypse", it trades in the latter's climactic crashing waves of sound for a more minimalistic approach - the majority of the song dominated by the beat-keeping but no less interesting sound of two drumsticks clicking together and synth-laden swirl of simple melodic riffs. By the time the band utters the songs' first words; you're already a pool of anticipation utterly transfixed. "Hey, Hey" metamorphoses into a loud jam subtly, the drumstick tapping become cymbal crashes almost exclusively, the vocals fade in unimportance and what remains could very go on forever with nary a complaint. Instead though, like an overworked machine, the whole thing comes skidding to a halt and the vocals regain their glory in just enough time to cap it all.
If it tried hard enough, …and the Burnt River Bridge could be a work of artfully endearing pop. “Now, Apocalypse” and “Hey, Hey” toe the line of beachy, rock jams that we all long for in the summer and yet, they’re not. They never quite cross into that territory. They’re catchy but not alarmingly so, aspiring to be more than throwaways. …and the Burnt River Bridge is a colorful blend of sounds that work in an utterly captivating way. It’s an album you put on and listen to, not picking and choosing your favorite tracks and moving on where each song is an important part of the charming whole. One that makes you wonder and hope and wish that there’s more to come from In the Shadow of the Mountain regardless of whether that may well be.
You can pick download In the Shadow of the Mountain's album for free from Barn Owl Records here.