Mountaineer’s heartfelt bursts rip through doom, gazey power on mind-tingling ‘Bloodletting’

It’s really hard to enjoy a wide array of emotions right now, because there is so much fear and uncertainty, as well as frustration, that pushing your mind further isn’t an easy thing to do. But there are ways to do this, hard as it might be to find, but once you get a hold of something that helps you transcend, you can push beyond the chaos.

It was during one of my many listens to “Bloodletting,” the third record from Bay Area artists Mountaineer, where things really came into focus for me. This record is a real step up for this band, an expansive set of songs that are atmospheric and completely heart swelling, being absolutely unafraid to show vulnerability in what can be a stupidly macho metal world. The band—vocalist Miguel Meza, guitarists Clayton Bartholomew, Isaac Rigler, and Forrest Harvey, bassist Dillon Variz, drummer Patrick Spain—combines doom, dreamgaze, sludge, and so many more elements into an imaginative collection that can fill your head with wonder. There are amazing highs here, sorrowful lows, and earnest attempts to connect beyond a superficial level with important people who are forces in life. It’s hard to really put into proper perspective here, so just go listen to it, yes?

“Blood of the Book” opens the record with group harmonizing and guitars that bring a jazzy vibe before the track bursts open, and harsh shouts rattle you. Clean singing switches in later as the playing reaches an emotional deluge, organs pile on, and the track has an overwhelming crescendo. “The Weeds I Have Tended” opens and floods the place as the vocals switch off from screams to clean expressions. Meza’s yelps have a Hetfield dryness to them, as strong playing backs him heavily, and heavy sludge pours in and floods all the way to the gates. “Shot Through With Sunlight” has a somber start before the track bursts at the seams, as Meza’s singing glazes over your eyes. Every time the song goes to a trickle, you know there’s a burst on the other side that delivers blistering playing and emotional, crushing waves. The final minutes of the song bring gut-wrenching playing that demands your total investment. “To Those We’ve Said Goodbye” opens with delicate playing and a psyche-washed, Pink Floyd-style vibe that unfurls its wings. The singing gushes as spiritual pall develops, letting the playing rush and fill you with so much heartfelt energy that it may take a moment to recover afterward.

The title track has feedback looping and clean singing scraping, really peaking over the chorus. The song is heavy as hell but also mindful and atmospheric as the guitars calm before things ramp back up again, coming to a climax that pays off with psychological reward. “South to Infinity” opens with buzzing guitars and vicious howls,  a total 180 from the previous few tracks. Later the cold winds arrive along with harmonized singing and a trickling pace that eventually explodes. The back end of the song is both dreamy and punchy as the playing continues until the fuel dies out. “Apart” flows gently at the start as hazy singing and airy playing make you want to gaze at the sky. Meza laments about being “so far apart from how it used to be” (no way he knew how prophetic those words would turn out to be) as the playing swirls and delivers hypnosis. “Ghost Story” is the closer for the vinyl version as it has the feel of a story-ending ballad that helps pay the emotional toll. “I cannot shake you, I cannot,” Meza laments while the song continues to expose the aching heart and internal wounds. “If you ever change your mind, you know where to look,” Meza calls as the waves crash down, and an acoustic dash takes it home. “Still” is a bonus track for the CD and digital versions, and the song pushes open and bustles, pushing straight through your chest. “I want this to end, I need to begin again,” Meza wails, again not realizing the weight that line would hold on the day this record is released, as the track catapults toward an ending that rings in your ears.

Mountaineer seem to have really struck something on “Bloodletting,” a record that you’ll want to revisit often just to fully examine every layer that unfolds in front of you when you take that trip. This is an album that you’ll feel deep in your chest if you allow yourself to connect fully, and as long as you’re not holding yourself back from that relationship, it’ll be a fulfilling journey. This is a great time to extend your gamut of emotions, and Mountaineer can help you get there with this really powerful album.

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