Hex Mountains has sprung up from a collision between the tectonic plates of post-rock and drone – a menacing, guitar-driven organism that seems to have emerged from far beneath the surface of the everyday. Thisquietarmy presents a soundtrack to a seismic event almost glacial in its slow yet inexorable progression; an event that seems capable of rending our very reality.
The album contains four tracks fairly singular in scope yet differing in texture and mood from each other, together creating an unpredictable overarching dynamic that slowly rises and falls in mimicry of the titular mountains – from the opening maelstrom of “From Darkness” slowly down to the rupturing aftermath and eventual calm of the middle two tracks, creeping back up to the crescendo that closes “Spirits in Oblivion”; Hex Mountains is book-ended by peaks that present its loudest and most wholly musical moments, looming over a lengthy middle more disquieting and amorphous.
Thisquietarmy is the work of a prolific single guitarist, Eric Quach, who experiments with effects and loops to create mainly textural compositions using the palettes of multiple genres, from doom and metal through to post-rock and ambience. Here he welcomes additional musicians to further enhance the output, with almost universal success. The bass guitar and drums provide solid structural foundation to the first and final tracks (as well as some startling punctures to the closing ambience in “Digital Witchcraft”), although washed-out production somewhat lessens the drums’ impact for these ears. Wildly successful are the two female vocalists, whose contributions add a hauntingly ethereal quality to the middle pieces. Indeed, Quach reaches his atmospheric acme in “Wraithslayers”, a swirling miasma of drone rendered all the more disconcerting – almost supernatural – by the wailing vocals that enter and recede with spectral elusiveness. As the record’s lengthiest track develops, the fabric of reality itself seems to enshroud, and the tighter it envelopes the more can be seen through its weave of what lies beyond. In time the perfectly controlled layers grow fuzzier, more suffocating, and the wails assume an increasingly despairing cadence.
After 40-odd minutes of cataclysmic bleakness, Hex Mountains rewards with a moment of optimism: the cathartic chord passage that closes “Spirits in Oblivion”, supported by the thunderous rhythm section, carries forth a sense of triumph, of prevailing – not over the forces of nature against which we are so powerless, but at least over the despair that could threaten to overwhelm after they have had their say. (Chris Redfearn)