Lucid Grave – Cosmic Mountain Review

I have recently come to the conclusion that it is sometimes a good exercise to deliberately review two records of the same genre back to back. Not to directly compare the two but to get one into the right mindset and to think about makes a great record in this particular field. And so it is that I find myself reviewing two stoner metal records in consecutive weeks. It’s lucky that I am not trying to compare them, however, as Copenhagen, Denmark’s Lucid Grave could not be more different—within the confines of stoner metal, anyway—from last week’s Holyroller. For its debut LP, this Danish five-piece is seeking to blend just about every stoner-adjacent sound together to create a brew all of its own. Is this heady mix greater than the sum of its parts?

Perhaps we should begin by examining what those parts are. On Cosmic Mountain, Lucid Grave toy with classic doom and psychedelic influences like Black Sabbath and Hawkwind, respectively, as well as raucous 80s punk a la Black Flag, all lovingly bundled up in a modern stoner space (blues) blanket, with lashings of High Priestess or Doctor Smoke. It’s a pungent, powerful homebrew, that lurches drunkenly between its different touch points, effectively drawing on influences at different junctures rather than dumping it all into the blender at once. The result—once you make it through the overly long opener, more on which shortly—is a crusty, bawdy good time record that feels familiar, without being tired. Whether it’s the irrepressible energy of psych-punk number “Old Spirit,” which sees shimmering guitar leads and a stomping rhythm section nodding along to synth antics, the contemplative, space rock and blues of “I’m Still High” or the thunderous proto-doom of closer “Curse of the Crow,” there’s a little something for pretty well everyone on Cosmic Mountain.

Vocalist Malene’s performance is, however, the most notable thing here. Howling, imploring, heavily stylized, often discordant, her delivery is … an acquired taste. I am still working on acquiring it, though I am almost there. Like the humble olive, you know it’s good for you and will make you a better person once you get it but it takes a little work. For the most part, the vocals do work for Lucid Grave as Malene shifts chameleon-like through different shades of being but the starkest, most extreme iteration of her craft is on the opening title track. There, she leans hard into an echoing, ululating baying, which I found find very hard to enjoy or even appreciate. This is a punchy way to open the album, which I can see putting off a lot of people, not least because that track runs to 11-minutes and change, and is pretty unrelentingly focused on Malene doing her thing over the top of Sabbath-meets-Coven worship.

It’s a strange choice to open the record and not really representative of the rest of Cosmic Mountain, meaning it would be a real shame if the title track cost Lucid Grave fans. The rest of the album is both more accessible and, significantly, a lot more fun. Cuts like “Old Spirit” see the vocals offer more variety and get forced to share center stage with more interesting work from guitarists Casper and Kriller, and more prominent bass courtesy of Alex. Cosmic Mountain is a constantly shifting palette of influences and tempos, with Lucid Grave showing off different moods and more than a little skill in writing compelling riffs and building cleverly on well-used influences. The production gives the record a big, loud sound that one might expect from desert blues but keeps a little grit around the edges in a nod to Lucid Grave’s punkier inspirations. At times, Malene’s Marmite vocals are perhaps given a little too much prominence in the mix (most notably on “Cosmic Mountain”) but this is a minor gripe for the most part.

The cover art for Cosmic Mountain gave me some idea what to expect from Lucid Grave but the band pulls off its multifaceted vision with flair and panache. Not everything works and it really is a shame that the title track, first, opens the album and, secondly, is both long and dull, with Malene on her most polarizing form. By contrast, the shrieking psychedelia of “Stay Away” or the stomping, upbeat punky tones of “Old Spirit” are really very good, more than delivering on what I’d hoped for from Lucid Grave, making the record’s shortcomings more frustrating.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Electric Valley Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 15th, 2022

« »