FEATHER MOUNTAIN - To Exit a Maelstrom
Album: To Exit a Maelstrom
Release Date: September 2nd, 2022
FEATHER MOUNTAIN are a Danish progmetal band who I have had the pleasure to follow since their first release, “Nidus”, an album which I really think should have been recognized by a bigger audience. Unfortunately the competition is immense in today's music industry, and you need to have a strong network to get heard throughout the "noise". I certainly hope that they will reach more listeners with "To Exit a Maelstrom", which will be out on September 2nd, 2022, as they created an album that surpasses their debut in every way without leaving their heritage or trying to blend in.
Their sound is truly progressive metal, but at the same time they have found their own space within the genre. I often can connect new (and established) bands to their biggest influences, but I have a hard time doing so with FEATHER MOUNTAIN. It might have to do with the great mixture of impacts from all musicians involved, or I might have missed bands I should be aware of ;-) Either way - It requires skills and self-confidence to come up with a sound of your own and stick to it!
Even though the album was written during the pandemic, the restrictions have not been the main fuel. The father of Christian and Andreas was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2020, something that highly affected the two brothers as well as the other band members being so close to them. The rehearsal studio became a ventilation channel for them, and the illness turned out to be the main contributor for the new songs.
Let us take a moment to introduce the musicians involved:
Mikkel’s vocal performance is mainly clean and straight forward, but what appears easy to the listener is actually very hard, and without a vibrato, which he rarely uses, his voice adds vulnerability to the overall sound. But when it comes to more angry moments, he can gradually transform from that clean tone to expressive screams, nicely executed in “Cloud-Headed” as one example.
Andreas is more involved in backing vocals than in “Nidus”, with his growls being rather painful to listen to, so genuine reflecting the emotions, like during “Pariah”. But his main part is of course the bass, and as in all well-produced albums, his playing is neither central nor dominant, but if you focus on it you will understand how much he contributes to the overall sound. Progressive!
Christian brings in great, complex rhythms with his smooth, yet wonderful diverse drumming, delivering the full spektrum from jazz, prog, to even black metal. His importance for the band's soul is also in being the main writer behind the lyrics.
Jens' guitar tone is clearly a big part of FEATHER MOUNTAIN's unique sound, and I just love it. Blues rhythms and non-distorted guitar lines are standing out, adding the same vulnerability as Mikkel’s clean voice. But since they are a metal band, Jens also plays nearly as much distorted guitar lines as non-distorted. The perfect example is the last track: “Maelstrom”, when you get the full spectrum of his playing.
The songs one by one
1. August Mantra
If you have already listened to their debut, you will clearly recognise the sound from the first verse! But very soon you will also detect the band's development, as they have grown bolder, stronger, and yet more vulnerable. "August Mantra" takes you on a journey starting from "Nidus" and ending up in the middle of the Maelstrom.
2. Beneath Your Pale Face
From this point things will only be more emotional, and I want to pick up one of the strongest and most visual song texts I have heard in a long time: “Golden Eyes turn to stone and grow cold, when elder arms drop the weight of our world, when the guiding hand is retracted, what do we owe then?“ Poetry!
One can really imagine how the dependency to one important individual is slowly taken away against your will, and how you struggle to find your new reality, frustrated to accept the situation. The music underlines these emotions perfectly - A song not shaped in any template, just delivering.
The roughest track on the album with screamed verses performed by Andreas, and it is painfully good, expressing the despair. For a non-native English speaker (like me) it might be hard to hear the words and to fully understand (even though it's pretty evident this is no bliss), but when reading the lyrics while listening, I am very close to burst to tears… every single time…
This might be the best progmetal song of 2022 for me. I'm totally overwhelmed, but actually don’t have words to describe it, so you need to listen yourself - Goose bumps-alert!
One of the few parts where I clearly can hear an influence from another band: The intro reminds me of The Ocean, and they also add some black metal vibes. Overall a beautiful and sad song about (as I interpret it) the (lack of) ability to communicate when the terms have changed. Emotionally moving, about a very common situation among your closest and dearest.
One of FEATHER MOUNTAIN’s strongest abilities is to build unique sounds with familiar ingredients, and here we have actually a catchy chorus. The song seems to tackle the issue with not being allowed to be joyful or blissful in the dark period you are in. Even though it's highly needed, you get a bad conscience having those feelings.
7. Air Hunger (instrumental)
Even though there are no lyrics, you still can hear the pain. The bass steps up to act as rhythm guitar, building the foundation (together with the drums) for the guitar to take the lead by itself. The musicians really take the opportunity to show their skills, greatly mastered with added screams in the background. And is it a siren from an ambulance I am hearing?
The album rounds off with the longest track - Almost 10 minutes of ear candy. Starting classical and thoughtful, turning heavier beat by beat until we reach the climax. After five minutes, it slows down again and we transfer into a dreamy phase, used as perfect ending "To Exit the Maelstrom".
With their second album, FEATHER MOUNTAIN have created a great piece of progmetal art, also melting influences from blues, jazz and progressive rock. The connection to their sound on “Nidus” is obvious, but they have evolved everything into something bigger, better, bolder! Each track brings in its own identity, yet they all fit well together as a unit. Great music is often created through pain and sorrow, and the emotions here are evident, impossible not to be touched by. “To Exit a Maelstrom” exceeds my already high expectations, and I am deeply impressed that they stick to their unique sound, believing in themselves in such extent that it is actually the listeners who need to find them and learn to love their sound instead of trying to meet in the middle. Massive!
Written by 1progressivemetalfan
Mikkel Lohmann – vocals
Jens Baalkilde Andersen - guitar and backing vocals
Andreas Dahl-Blumenberg - bass and backing vocals
Christian Dahl-Blumenberg - drums
1. August Mantra
2. Beneath Your Pale Face
7. Air Hunger
Nidus - 2019
To Exit A Maelstrom - 2022