Deep Mountains – 深山
Release: EP, 2010 (Pest Productions)
Genre: Post-Black/Folk Metal
Sonic Brethren: Tenhi, Drudkh, Chinese Nature
Music being a universal language is without question. It bridges gaps, promotes understanding between cultures and teaches Americans a hell of a lot about Scandinavia. But it can also open your eyes and ears to locales where you never thought individuals with your same musical tastes would thrive. Hailing from Tai’an, China, this EP is Deep Mountain’s only recording as of yet but speaks volumes about their potential.
It opens with an acoustic folk passage which builds the mood for the tracks to come. Upon my first listen, I was nervous. Maybe it’s a stereotype (ok, definitely), but I automatically assumed that an underground recording from China is going to be of a lower quality than what we’re used to in the Western World (can you blame me?). Minutes into the second track it becomes very apparent that this is a professional release through and through. When the clean guitars switch their tone to buzzsaw mode, they’re crisp and thick yet retain a sharp without a hint of muddiness.
From there, the descent into the deep mountains begins. And it’s a winding one. The path seamlessly weaves between folk interludes, Pink Floyd-esque bridges and seething black metal panic attacks that can sound anywhere from early Nachtmystium to a doomy Taake. But it never doubles back. Don’t get too attached to any one piece, because unlike the mountains the imagery is based on, the verses are fleeting. Once you’ve heard it, it’s gone. It mimics the death of someone you hardly knew. I fell love too quickly and Deep Mountains exploited my foolishness. “远山”, which translates to “Distant Mountains”, has one of my favorite black metal riffs in history, erupting out of nowhere during a soothing string section, then it’s ripped away – returning the song to a place of peace and reflection. Multi-intrumentalist Liu Qiang is in complete control of his voice. He showcases anguished screams and soft poetic speaking in his native Mandarin, contributing a gorgeous atmosphere throughout the recording. The sixth and final track feels the most straightforward, dividing its time down the center between the band’s two aesthetics. Starting with an atmospheric blackened piece that rivals anything by their best American or European counterparts, it ends with beautiful acoustic harmonies that give you time to reflect on the journey of the past 45 minutes.
This EP holds the weight of the mountains on its cover and will hopefully stand strong just as long.
Final Thoughts: A unique and wonderfully-written piece of music that shows black metal can evolve and thrive in parts of the world you wouldn’t expect.