Sweden’s Anguish have a lot of hype going for them. Their debut, 2012’s Through the Archdemon’s Head, turned the heads of fans, critics, and foxes the world over, bludgeoning everyone with their massive mix of Candlemass, Trouble, and the *ahem* unique vocals of J. Dee. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to check that album out, but when news hit that their newest release, Mountain, would take their sound and streamline it, cutting out the fat and giving us just the meaty morsels of their maddening dinner spread, I took the opportunity to jump in, ready to absorb the doom, gloom, and madness… and for the life of me, I just don’t understand the hype.
The first proper track, “Makarian Furnace” exhibits some real promise, though. Most of the riffs are sheer Candlemass worship, with some simplistic-yet-effective drumming and thick, chewy bass. So what’s the hold-up, you may ask? For starters, for as strong as the song starts out, it drags significantly about halfway in, more than outwearing its dire-yet-cool initial welcome. The biggest issue I have is J. Dee’s vocals, or rather his syncopation. His actual voice isn’t a problem, as his combination of Thomas G. Fischer (Triptykon) and Pelle Åhman (In Solitude) fits the music quite well, but his continuous screaming and timing is quite off at parts, which makes for a trying listen.
It’s this rollercoaster of soaring, crushing highs and confused, embarassing lows that makes Mountain such a pain in the ass to actually enjoy. There’s no shortage of amazing riffs here, such as on the incredible “The Woven Shield,” but when the songs go on for too damn long, like on “Void” and “Snowhammer,” they lose their intended potency. Only “Decomposer of Planets,” with a runtime of under four minutes, gets in, bulldozes, and leaves before dragging for too long. It also features J. Dee’s best performance on Mountain, utilizing whispers and howls to great effect. However, speaking of Dee, his vocal stylings on “Stir Up the Demon” are not only the wonkiest, but so are the lyrics (“I murdered him/there he lies/SMIIIIIIILING/kneeling next to him/it is her/staring at me/maaaaaaadness/MAAAAAAAADNESS…”). Remember the classic episode of Ren & Stimpy where they form a wrestling tag-team, and Stimpy cut the greatest promo ever? It’s like that, but only not good when it’s J. Dee’s turn to holler the loud, funny words.
And it’s a shame too, because not only are the riffs phenomenal on here, but the production is quite warm and dynamic. Everything has a proper heft to it; the guitars and bass are beefy, and the drums punch like they should. Hell, there’s even cowbell! However, for as much fat as people say has been trimmed off of here, it still feels twice as long as it should, and the vocal delivery and lyrics could use some serious work.
One again, the Hype Machine chugs along, touting the arrival of The Next New Thing, and yet again it disappoints. The only anguish you will experience here is that of potential being squandered, lyrics being giggled at, and boredom setting in. There is hope, but as for Mountain, put this on a pike with the fox heads and leave it there.