Thisquietarmy: Hex Mountains
Denovali Records

The press release accompanying Eric Quach's latest Thisquietarmy outing makes listening to Hex Mountains seem like a rather daunting prospect, as attested to by the following excerpt: “… the creepy noise sorcery, the mental screams, and the weighty burden will also make you want to throw up. From one peak to the other, climbing Hex Mountains is one hell of a trek.” Truth be told, such words are a tad misleading, as Hex Mountains does not induce nausea and, furthermore, climbing its mountain proves to be as manageable a proposition as the treks demanded by other releases in the Montreal-based guitarist's canon. But don't get the wrong idea either: no one—thankfully—will mistake Quach's album for one by The Carpenters.

The album features four long tracks, all of them recorded live (the opening and closing ones in Ottawa, Ontario and the middle two in France) and subsequently brought back into the studio for finessing. Fans of the trademark Thisquietarmy sound—shuddering drones and loops birthed by electric guitar and effects—will find their appetites well-satisfied by the material, but Quach changes things up in subtle yet significant ways during the forty-four-minute set. While the opener “From Darkness,” for instance, begins with three minutes of ghostly smolder, it broadens out when drummer Scotty Rooney (Alaskan) and bassist Dorian Williamson (Northumbria/Adoran) add their slow-motion thunder to the guitarist's molten outpouring. Yep, it's heavy alright but not unpleasantly so, and chances are you'll be tempted to crank it up until the walls shake if not collapse altogether.

Not everything's as loud on the release, however: upping the ghostly ante, Émilie Bresson and Jeanne Peluard (Monarch) add wordless moans to the creeping, shroud-like fog of “Wraithslayers,” with Quach's sheet-metal slabs amplifying the music's disturbing tone. Unfolding like some pulsing transmission from the spirit world, “Digital Witchcraft” hews to a relatively hushed pitch throughout, though snare strikes and noisemaking repeatedly threaten to split it open and release the madness. The closing “Spirits in Oblivion” reinstates the aggressive attack of the opener, with this time the material presented at a skull-crushing gallop, and the intensity achieved in the final three minutes by all involved is a wonder to behold.

November 2013