Ardent Spirits - Mountain HowlMusic is a lot like food. Both are nourishing: food for the body and music for the spirit. There’re no accounting for taste, but there’s semi-predictable consensuses (consensi?), such as nu-metal and tofurkey are both hellspawn that should be scorched from the face of the Earth. Sometimes you feel in the mood for a big, luxury five-course meal, so you load up Ayreon, sometimes you crave the greasy slop of Vader, and sometimes you prefer a salad so you throw yourself out the sixth-floor window. With all this said, who’s ready for a medium-sized bag of popcorn? It’s only slightly blackened!

Ardent Spirits is a German 5-piece who peddle easily digestible Gothenburgian melodic black metal. Think Catamenia when they still had any black in their metal. The vocalist employs a basic throaty gargle but he’s consistent and diverse enough to be one of the better assets to the band. The album opens with two high-speed tracks, of which “Gears of Time” is the clear winner with its catchy chorus. “Attack” finds the band channeling Amon Amarth, with even the vocalist dropping an octave for the verses, in a fun and unpretentious song. “Nautilus Journey” is a nice and upbeat folky diversion that reminds me of Equilibrium. For the closer, the epic goes up and the speed goes down at first, but it gradually rebuilds velocity with some pretty sweet riffs. It’s neither new nor special but it’s pleasurable low-brow fun. Popcorn.

I did nearly shatter my teeth on the unpopped kernel that is “Silent Whistle” though. A better title would be “Rape Whistle,” as the vocalist kicks down the door with a lecherously snarled “are you waiting for me/oh come on dirty bitch/are you looking for fun” and fills the rest of the song with uncomfortable sexual imagery that in its half-understood state sounds better at home in an R. Kelly song. It’s a ghastly effort that’s best skipped altogether. The instrumental “Soul of the Alchemyst” merely feels like the band had a good riff, but no song to put it in. They use cinema-standard butter in this batch as well, because of the aftertaste of each song is the flavor of disappointment. The tracks don’t so much finish as simply end. Half of them fade out the last riff, like the host of a party turning down the volume to tell his guests it’s time to leave, and the rest just stop dead in their tracks like the stereo was thrown off the table to make room for beer pong.

Ardent Spirits 2017

Problems like these make the record sound rushed and unfinished, and they underline the inexperience of the band. The production doesn’t fare a whole lot better, either: the sound has a prepackaged quality, keeping to industry standard loudness, a slightly thin sound, and a mix that comes across as a “default” setting. Although the band doesn’t set out to do anything new, a smidgen of personality would have been welcome here. As a debut, there’s a lot of room to grow for the band, but it’s hard to give much leeway when we’ve seen so many amazing and original debuts recently. 

Popcorn will never be a gourmet meal. Freshly made with good butter, it can be a tasty treat that’s easy to enjoy again and again. Mountain Howl is, unfortunately, a bit stale and has some nagging problems that keep it from that level, but there are enough fun riffs and energetic gallops to keep it from tasting like sweaty jockstraps instead of salted snacks. Ardent Spirits has what it takes to be unstoppable once popped, but with their debut, they aren’t quite there yet.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: ardentspiritsofficial.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ardentspiritsofficial
Releases Worldwide: April 5th, 2017

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  • Ferrous Beuller

    Vader? Greasy slop? Triggered.

  • El_Cuervo

    Not the only time that R Kelly tag has been used here.

    • He puts the “R” in HR.

      • You wot m8?

        “Human R Kelly”?

  • Zach Ward

    You brought up nu-metal so I feel like asking anyone. Would ya prefer some Korn or Six Feet Under?? Nu Metal vs Chris Barnes. Tough choice I say.

    On topic this review was quite amazing and all that jazz. Food comparisons have just got me hungry tho.

    • SFU but not happy about it.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Six Feet Under’s Haunted any day!!! Over ANY nu-metal. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I LOVE “Haunted”. Some people blame Allen West for “Haunted” being Six Feet Under’s only good album. .

  • What is Dodecahedron’s food equivalent… caviar, but half the eggs are metal BB’s painted black?

    • You wot m8?

      More like steel wool put through a blender.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Now I feel like putting steel wool in a blender and see what happens…

    • Alec Haowen Fang

      Laxatives. With spikes on them.

    • Nukenado

      Laxatives.

    • Bas

      hakarl if they were icelandic or fugu if they were japanese, but they are dutch.. maybe dubbel zoute drop ;-)

  • Wes Allen

    Though the embedded track seems nondescript at best, at least they convinced a ringwraith and Medieval Batman to pose for their album cover.

    • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

      I feel that if they took those guys out, just left the background picture in, and rearranged the Deathly Hallows sign a bit, it would have been far better.

      • [not a Dr]

        This applies to the band picture as well.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      That’s no Medieval Batman, that’s a Spartan Batman.

  • Nexus

    Why does their logo have a Harry Potter reference in it? Seems like an odd choice

    • I think it’s only a matter of time until Swallow the Sun decides to cover the entire Harry Potter series in triple album installments.

      • Nexus

        Well Harry Potter metal is still an untapped market…

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I think it’s only a matter of time before the Harry Potter generation kids decide Harry Potter is as worthy a Metal subject as Tolkien’s writings.

  • Thatguy

    Band Photometer says ‘we’re not making a living out of this.’

    And terrible album art.

    • GardensTale

      It’s a 2003 photoshop job by someone who didn’t use a computer until december 2002.

  • Glamdring

    So that’s a Nazgûl who uses Force lightning, and a Deathly Hallows sign. Anyone spot any ASoIaF references?

    • GardensTale

      Color palette is very North of the Wall.

    • Feytalist

      There’s the Throat of the World in the Background too.

  • Tofu muncher

    I noticed the tags (Melodic Black, and Melodic Death), and dudes (or dude and dudette) on the album cover, and commend AMG for touching all the bases. Pretty generic music based on the embedded track but I may spin this one once or thrice. Thanks for the heads up.