By Kevin Stewart-Panko
If you haven’t heard of The Holy Mountain, we here at Hellbound don’t blame you and will not revoke any of your hard-earned scene points. This is a band that almost goes out of their way to shun attention. In some ways, they’re not as isolationist as Tragedy or the various black metal bands that attempt to depict themselves as such, but they don’t make being a fan easy. Yes, they have a MySpace page. No, there aren’t many updates. Yes, those updates provide the bare-bones in terms of info; sometimes less. This wouldn’t be a sticking point of any contention if the band sucked dog balls and hardly warranted a blip on the ‘awesome meter.’ But the fact of the matter is that The Holy Mountain is probably one of the best D-beat/hardcore/punk/thrash/whathaveyou bands around. And naturally, one wants more, not less, of something they enjoy.
So, a couple months ago, I was asked to review this return release (the band briefly broke up a couple years ago and are back) by the low-key Floridians. At the time, I was sent a ZIP file/download of Here is No Exit ahead of its official release date. Normally, I’d rather dip my testicles in a mason jar full of AIDS than listen to or review a digital version of an album, but when physical copies aren’t ready and deadlines are clawing at your sanity, what are you gonna do?
Formatting concerns aside, Here is No Exit rules. The band comes blasting out of the gate like a horse that’s had its tail set on fire after gobbling down 200 Viagra pills. The duelling guitars are reminiscent of Shai Hulud where single-note melodies carry and drive the rhythm’s chord progression, except that The Holy Mountain hollers and rasps more akin to Disfear and 16 doing the melodies over-top a combination of Motorhead, Kylesa and some slowed-to-a-crawl Nasum riffage. An experimental flash rears its head on “Bulldozer” and with the phased drum volley in “Jungle Beatings” that shares space with a remarkably anthemic chorus that are closely rivalled by the infectiousness of the title track, “We Must Kill” and “Youth Authority.” All around, Here is No Exit is more top notch material from a band who’ve never failed to deliver top notch material.
Here’s the rub: A little while later, the folks at No Idea sent a vinyl copy and after experiencing it’s packaging, liner notes and listening on a decent stereo, it’s almost like another world was opened up as I was able to experience Here is No Exit with far more depth than a simple ZIP file and a list of song titles could never hope to achieve. First, it’s a picture disc release and the artwork on the record and in the liner notes/lyric sheet (which is folded pamphlet-style) is a detailed crossing of stark realism with kitschy horror. Next, before seeing said lyric sheet, there was no prior information available that the lyrics to “Genocide” were based on the suicide note of a Polish Jew who killed himself in 1943 to protest his government’s poor protection of his people from war-time Nazis. It’s also a helpful and interesting value added that the band included an English translation of Szmul Zygelbojm’s last words so the listener knows where the song is coming from. As well, they also include footnotes and short explanations of the origin of various lyrics. Then, there’s the little matter of the B-side’s seven songs actually being taken from two separate sessions recorded in 2006 and 2007. We were only informed of this upon cracking the package open, though you can really hear the sonic differences between the sides when this is blasting in my living room; on the tin cans the yokels at HP call speakers and installed in my laptop, not so much.
It may seem like I’m using this forum to extol the virtues of physical copies of music over digital. Deep down, maybe I am, as well as showing my age and bias (all while recognizing the irony of doing it for a web publication – har-dee-har-har). In time, JPEGs of the liner notes will turn up online and the lyrics and explanations will eventually turn up on lyrics sites, if they already haven’t (though you can bet the band wouldn’t be the ones doing so). Maybe all this is part of the official download you can get from No Idea. I’m not sure, but here’s yet another instance where I’m shrugging my shoulders at the digital world and enjoying being a nerd about having physical copies of music.