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  • Writer's pictureCase Cockrell

Dallas local act Mountain of Smoke returns with genre bending cover tunes on new release, Replicated

The first time I had the privilege of seeing Mountain of Smoke perform, I watched them at the Historic Andy’s Bar in Denton, Texas. The performance was an ear shattering wave of sound to say the least. This band is loud, heavy, and eclectic all at the same time. Mountain of Smoke has been playing in Dallas and surrounding areas for some time now, and the progression of this band is surely something to follow for fans in the Dallas-Fort Worth scene.

This new release is produced by the band's Pedal Steel player Alex Johnson, who also plays for many other revered Dallas acts. To describe this album in simplest terms, it has a heavy brand that is often bizarre, yet captivating. To say this band is simply a metal band would be dismissing their thirst to create and innovate. Armed with the desire to put new spins on these songs, the band embarks on an outing in a world where live music is a new taboo.

Formed in 2014, Mountain of Smoke is composed of Bassist/Vocalist Brooks Martin, Pedal Steel player Alex Johnson, and drummer PJ Costigan. Since acquiring prolific multi-instrumentalist Alex Johnson of Dallas-bred local legends The House Harkonnen circa 2018, the band has been on a wild streak, releasing a full length album, an EP, and playing many high profile gigs around the Dallas metroplex. The band has even been performing live streams on the internet when the pandemic put a stop to all local shows. On this new record, the band signals that they have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

Originally forming as a two piece act, Mountain of Smoke has made incredible progressions throughout their time as a band. In 2019, the band dropped EP “Future Sins,” featuring Kyle Shutt of Austin act, The Sword. This EP was deemed a success, and it was released to wide acclaim. On Replicated, the band delivers 10 tracks of tastefully groovy, often distorted covers of several classic songs from a bunch of different time periods.

Mountain of Smoke’s appetite for heavy, yet accessible music shines through on tracks like “Breathe,” a cover of English Electronic band The Prodigy. When you hit play on this album, the opening notes of this track immediately tell us that Mountain of Smoke isn't trying to directly emulate these artists in these covers, but to deliver an original, yet genuine take on this batch of songs.

This pattern continues with White Zombie cover “Creature of the Wheel.” The heavy riffage of this track combined with the electrifying vocal delivery makes it sound like Mountain of Smoke could have written this song. (As with every other song on this album, really!) Don’t let the fact that this is a cover album fool you, everything here sounds like it could be original material. It might as well as be.

Mountain of Smoke takes aim at the emotional intensity of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds with a cover of “Up Jumped the Devil." Grasping Cave’s concept of storytelling, Mountain of Smoke shows incredible initiative to make this song have a satisfyingly heavy new edge. By the time the track ends, you’ll probably feel like you’ve been through some sort of wringer, and I mean that in the best kind of way. This track is an epic one, and the band quickly becomes successful in putting their own worthy spin on it.

The band continues to show their eclectic nature on cover of Enya’s “Only Time,” which features Dallas local artist, Lorelei K. Upon learning that this was a song that the band was going to cover, I’ll admit I was a little skeptical on how they would make it their own. However, with Lorelei K’s excellent vocal delivery and the band’s pummeling instrumental combined with the seering synths throughout, this track makes it seem like this is how the song always should have sounded. Not to mention the last minute or so when the track collapses into a heavy breakdown all fans will love.

Perhaps the calmest track on the record, “O Superman,” by Laurie Anderson takes a huge step for the band. With a runtime of over 8 minutes, this track is driven with arena ready synths, with a vocal delivery that is just as compelling, if not more than the original song. Fans will love that the band takes risks here, and every single idea pays off in its own diverse, sometimes inventive way.

Other tracks on the record include Deftones cover “My Own Summer,” along with “Chauffeur” by Duran Duran, the latter of which showcases Alex Johnson’s impeccable vocal delivery that I have been hooked on since hearing his former band The House Harkonnen. Every member of Mountain of Smoke shines on this new release, and it makes me excited for what they’ll do next. (I’ve been told their releasing a full length record of original material this year)

To cap off Replicated, Mountain of Smoke ends things on a high note with Nine Inch Nails classic, “Wish.” Starting out slow, the song slowly progresses into a distorted, often disorienting auditorial assault. Around the 4 minute mark, Mountain of Smoke erupts into a chaotic jam that demonstrates volumes of musical courage and creativity. Give this batch of songs a spin, you’ll be happy you did.

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