Seamount – ‘Earthmother’ Album Review

Seamount operate within the herbal-scented fug of the mid-seventies. Initially focussing on a doomy vibe, the fourth record from German guitarist Tim Schmidt and American vocalist Phil Swanson sees the duo taking their sound on a spiritual crusade to identify the course of true love. This might, at a glance, sound pithy, but it is delivered as an intelligent, conceptual piece that explores the ideas of faith, religion, love and the innate spirituality (as distinct from religion) that drives humanity toward hope and away from the precipice of reactionary negativity. With such thoughtful lyrics as the creative force behind the album, it is no surprise that the music also needs to be an expansive canvass upon which the words could be daubed, and so ‘Earthmother’ sees Seamount indulging in a hybrid form of classic rock and metal that takes in the progressive tinged work of Dio, the more straightforward metal of Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath alongside hints of Zeppelin, Floyd and Deep Purple. There’s a bluesy feel to the brilliant guitar work that dominates the album, but don’t let this fool you into thinking that it does not kick like a mule when the need arises; it is rather that ‘earthmother’ revels in the art of subtlety and space rather than devastating walls of sound.

Opening with ‘surrender’, a track that sees a wind-swept shore line bought to life by some stunning acoustic work and a spoken-word poem that is part Pink Floyd and part Jim Morrison. It is a stunning opening piece that develops into a heavy, mid-tempo classic-rock storm that hints at the progressive splendour of Mastadon and the might of Zakk Wylde, whilst still finding time to veer into heady progressive territory when you least expect it to. ‘The fool’ takes the Ozzy sound and runs with it whilst the lyrics lay bare the author’s youth for all to see,  and, as the benefit of hindsight and regret pile up, Tim contributes gloriously metallic riffs that sizzle and burn with the majesty of vintage Deep Purple, a feeling further reinforced by the organ stabs that augment the music. ‘Echoes’ continues the theme of loss filtered through the experience of age and the wisdom of hindsight. Delicately played, Phil’s voice is a revelation – shot through with emotion you can hear that his heart and soul are caught up in the lyrics and their performance while Tim’s delicate, sympathetic backdrop is perfectly tailored to draw the poison from the regret and turn it, through some mysterious musical alchemy, into a thing of hope rather than despair.

As if to show the potential for salvation, ‘just for fantasy’ is a heavy, full-tilt blast of blues-infused metal that recalls Dio in his pomp with its searing solos and chugging rhythm underpinning a strong melody that makes the song both powerful and memorable. The title track, similarly simmers with tension and reflection, while musically adding a touch of Queensryche into the mix with its harmonised guitars and strong progressive flavour. ‘Aphrodite’s love’ is a full on stoner grind – the closest this album comes to the vintage doom that you might expect from Seamount – although even then the music is still imbued with a majestic bluesy tinge thanks to the solos that scar its surface. The biggest shock is, perhaps, the clean tones of ‘Isolation’ which draws upon Iggy Pop and Joy Division to paint a picture of despair and redemption. It’s a remarkable song, beautifully performed and recorded, and it shows the level of artistic development that Seamount have achieved that they can break so effectively from their traditional sound and yet still make it sound vital and cohesive within an album that covers a diverse range of ground.  ‘Do it again’ sees the band heading back towards a heavier sound via a swampy introduction that sounds like it was recorded underwater before bursting forth, breaking the surface and rendering itself as a vital, driving riff that sparkles in the newfound light, especially as the lead work slides and slips out of the mix. ‘Everything divine’ opens with the sound of the band in the studio before exploding into life, the riffs as powerful as anything that Tony Iommi has put his name to, whilst Phil draws the middle ground between Ozzy and Dio for an authoritative performance over so heavy a track. It’s an eleventh hour highlight form an album that consistently defeats expectations with its intelligent and varied approach and it also gives fans one last chance to let their hair down before the paean to the simple joy of producing music, simply entitled ‘music’, closes the album in a manner that will make even those of the most cynical disposition raise a smile. It’s the perfect ending for the album and it provides Seamount with the sort of dumb, beautiful rock ‘n’ roll anthem that will echo down through generations of fans and be sung loud and proud at festivals everywhere so utterly does it strike to the heart of the music fan.

Seamount have produced, in ‘Earthmother’ their most diverse set of music yet. You can hear the passion and invention that have gone into the album’s creation and, particularly on final track ‘music’, you can hear the simple love that the band have for their music and for the act of creation itself. There are tracks here to head-bang to, tracks to sing along to whilst holding your beer aloft in the mosh-pit and songs to reflect to; but most importantly, taken as a whole, this is an album to listen to from start to finish, absorbing the band’s myriad influences and waiting, with baited breath, to see what they’re going to do on each subsequent track. ‘Earthmother’ is an intelligent, brilliantly written album and to sit here, listening to it on repeat trying to find the right words to describe it  adequately, was a pleasure indeed – this is not a record to miss.

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2 Comments

  1. TheSumerian February 25, 2013 5:51 am  Reply

    The spoken-word intro poem is not part Pink Floyd or part Jim Morrison, but 100% Frank Herbert.
    Just FYI.

    • phil February 25, 2013 8:46 am  Reply

      In fairness we were commenting on the delivery rather than the author, but it’s good to know who wrote the piece, thank you!

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