Sometimes when it comes to releasing music it is all about timing. There are situations where the release is required to promote with tours or to commemorate something. In the case of The Ascent of Everest it’s been close to seven years break between releases. This has happened due to various reasons such as illness and the destruction of their rehearsal/living/community space and the album title is somewhat self referential and explains the band’s own mindset.
“Nearly seven years in the making, it’s ambitious scope and wide range of music represents an emotional culmination of the band’s arduous path to complete it. However, this is not just an album about sorrow and overcoming adversity. It’s also an album about a tight-knit community of musicians who assembled, lived together, and wrote music together in non-traditional ways. It’s an album of intricate compositions and sincere passion. It’s the music of the future.”
This is the first time that I have encountered the group and certain expectations of post rock bands come into play, but are quickly discarded as soon as the music starts. This is not paint by numbers post rock. Sure the framework is there, but the band move in a more singer/songwriter direction with a style that is possible rooted more Alternative Rock style with flourishes of styles like Shoegaze filtering in. That said, the music is not as predictable as that genre can produce as the band mix things up and have a strong narrative focus rather than just singing songs.
From the beginning of the album you are shown that the band won’t be confined to a particular sound. Each of the tracks that make up the first quarter of the album – “A Bitter Harvest”, “Buried In Leaves”, “Take Control” and “Dreadful Patient Persistence” all have their own sound and style including the Ambient/Drone intro of the opener through to the ever building twangy almost country-ish guitar of “Buried In Leaves” to the stark and lyrical “Take Control” which shows a minimalist approach to music as well as a six piece can with the opening section using space which is replaced by frenetic instrumentation for the remaining third of the track. “Dreadful Patient Persistence” brings in a electronica influence to the piece while musically it is far removed from the post rock sound that is their base, but still has enough of their dna to tie in with the other pieces.
The track that was released as the first single, “Aimless” when listened to the album as a whole was quite a wise decision as it is fairly representative of the album in its entirety. The music moves through quiet and loud passages without the clichés traditionally attached to it. There is melody, heaviness, ethereal vocals and strings which draw all the elements together.
If you didn’t know the origin of the band (Nashville Tennessee) you could hazard a guess as them being from the UK as it feels like there is somewhat a folk feel that runs through some of their pieces. This is best demonstrated with the dual vocalled “Eyelids Like Anchors” with its emotive strings tying in the folk feel. The script is then flipped straight away with the following track “I Could Have Loved You” which has a more experimental almost electronica feel with field recordings, minimal but chaotic beats and wistful vocals.
One thing that becomes apparent throughout the album is that regardless of what style of music that has influenced each particular piece, the band are very adept at creating atmosphere and a soundscape that shows the level of thought that goes into their pieces. A perfect example is the track “Awake Before Dawn” which could easily fall into the clichés of stop start or heaviness, but for the most part it shows restraint in creating a piece that has nice ambience to it – not one instrument is singled out. Instead they all act as support for each other which gives me a feeling of a gang mentality that the group may have developed over the years and the various setbacks that have passed through them.
The album ends with a trilogy of instrumental works as the Post Metal of “Breaks The Horizon” moves onto the droney textural “My Body Broke, My Mind Burned” before culminating with “The Valley Below” with its deep cello and violin driving this melodic of post metal finales with its insistent drums and crunching guitars finishing off the album. The highlight of the track are the strings and the way they cover the upper and lower registers of the music while also showing the piece’s direction. This track is perfect in showing the importance of strings to the bands works and also the variance of their compositions.
The band definitely have their own approach to their music with a diverse amount of disparate influences coming into play and giving them their edge. The closest musical comparison I could give would be the UK band Tomorrow We Sail, but The Ascent of Everest have a bit more varied sound scape and a distinct pop rather than folky edge of that British band. If the idea of listening to another Post Rock influenced release in 2019 leaves you a bit lost, “Is Not Defeated” will give you food for thought. According to an interview with the Arctic Drones site a new album shouldn’t be too long away rather than the long wait between their second and third full length albums.
“Is Not Defeated” is available in a range of vinyl packages, CD and Digital through Hammock Music.