Mt. St. Helens – Onetime Always

Mt. St. Helens
Onetime Always

The first thing I’d like to point out about Mt. St. Helens is the “Boston” rule: Never name your band after a specific geographic location, or you run the risk of sucking. Didn’t these guys think about this? Cases in point: America, Europe, Asia, Chicago, Kansas, Alabama, Styx? (Well, Styx is a mythical geographic location, but you get my drift. And while I’m at it, Billy Joel sucks too.) Now, unwittingly, they have an uphill battle to fight with me, because if they turn out to be a good band it will ruin my theory. (I wonder how many reviews they’ll get saying “On their new record, Mt. St. Helens ERUPTS?” Lets find those critics and punch each of them in the gut.)

This band caught my attention for a number of reasons. They’re among the new breed of melodic hardcore/emo styled bands that are sprouting up all over, with a touch of math-rock influence. As you might have guessed from that last statement, the vocals are from the Fugazi school of half shouting/half singing that are certainly nothing new. Never fear though, the vocalist is emotive enough to pull this style off with class, so it doesn’t sound trite at all. However, the real treat here is the interplay of the band.

Upon first play, track one, “Until,” has some softly distorted guitars building on a theme. Soon after the drums enter, playing a quick, almost break-beat pattern, which made my ears perk up. But don’t get your rave shoes on yet, because the band quickly shifts into overdrive and plays fast. I mean, REALLY fast. They play with an incredibly propulsive energy, and sound as if they could crash to a burning wreck at any moment. The drummer, whatever stimulants he happens to prefer, sounds like he’s trying to beat up Neil Peart and stuff him into his own drum cases. He’s all over the place, but in a good way. Even during the 5-minute plus closer, “Always Ontime,” he shows no signs of fatigue, throwing accents and fills into every open space and even cramming beats into places where no sane man would dare. This is a welcome break from the simplified half-timed hardcore drumming that often accompanies these bands. The instrumental heroics occasionally dazzle, often thrill, and sometimes prompt me to cover my eyes as if to say “Look out, they’re gonna crash!”

The good news, and the real fire in this release (I couldn’t resist) is that they don’t crash. No matter what wild chances they take musically, they somehow always land on their feet. To me, that’s rock and roll, and that’s one of the reasons I like these guys more than most bands that can be described as ’emo’ in any way. I’d like to hear more parts like that first break-beat in “Until,” now that I know they have it in them. This release is very short (under 30 minutes of real tunes), but it’s probably a good indicator of where they are now, and it provides hints as to where they could go. These are young guys too, so it’s a safe bet to keep our expectations high for their future records.

The downside is that I’m going to have to rethink my “don’t name a band after a place” rule a little bit, because these guys don’t suck. So ignore any preconceptions about the name and check this out. Maybe you just shouldn’t name a band after a city, state, or continent. That sounds like a safe bet.