I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know a lot about post-metal veterans Mouth of the Architect. Aside from a bizarre, stoner-friendly version of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” a few years ago, my exposure to the band has been nil. But they fall into the same broad range of heavy post-metal music that a million other bands due these days, the luminaries of which include Neurosis, Isis, Pelican, and Cult of Luna.
Path of Eight is the band’s sixth album and follows 2013’s Dawning. Research tells me (and sounds like) the band issues good but not spectacular albums, so let’s see how Path of Eight holds up.
Eight songs and 45 minutes means this is the album length us old guys grew up with, before CDs forced bands to bloat their albums with horrible filler. It also means there is no room for error on Path of Eight.
The album gets off to an eerie, sinister start with “Ritual,” a bizarre ambient piece featuring all sorts of horror-show sounds and instruments and barely discernible distorted vocals. It builds and fades straight into “Fever Dream,” which continues a similar heavy psychedelic theme but in a more musical fashion. Listening to these two songs while under the influence of certain herbs or chemicals would certainly mess a person up: in fact, a lot of this album would, and that’s the point.
“The Priestess” continues the stoner/post-metal onslaught in much the same manner as “Ritual” only with even slower tribal rhythms and a female lead vocal. Like its predecessors on the album, guitar and synth soundscapes ebb and flow throughout the mix, ideas coming and going as the band stretches themeselves beyond convention. It makes for an interesting, at times harrowing, arrangement, but three songs in I wonder if all the songs will follow the same template.
Not to worry, as the heavier side of the band rages forth on “Sever the Soul.” After a rhythmic and clean intro, harsh vocals and pummeling rhythms come in. While not the strongest offering here, it’s a welcome changeup and grabs our attention after the three earlier tracks began oozing similarity.
“Fallen Star” is perhaps the most bizarre (and therefore interesting) cut on the album, starting with downtuned, stuttering awkwardness before winding into completely weird territory, buzzing synths and anguished vocals, and then a frantic almost new wave synth-powered beat takes over before being drowned out by massive guitars. What starts as a stilted mess becomes the standout track on Path of Eight.
Path of Eight is a heavily compressed album, which at times works to the music’s advantage (during the heavier, more menacing moments) but at other times the squashed mix does not let the breadth of instrumentation really impact the listener to the degree it should.
Sounds and performances are top notch, though, and this is without doubt a very interesting album that needs multiple listens to really dig into. Mouth of the Architect have earned a place within the more psychedelic realms of the post-metal world, creating a varying, engaging album that fans of the genre will love.
(released October 7, 2016 on Translation Loss Records)