Review: Various Artists ‘From The Mountains To The Sea Volume 1′

Reviewing a compilation can be a thankless task, especially when it’s a strong showcase that brings together many great artists from a close-knit scene, and From The Mountain To The Sea is just that. Released by Lavender Sweeps Records, a DIY label from Swansea, Wales who specialise in helping uncover new music and shine a light on potentially obscure reissues, it’s clear that From The Mountains… is more than just a money-spinner, it is a labour of love.

Various Artists ‘From The Mountains To The Sea Volume 1'

Featuring extensive coverage of the underground stoner, sludge and doom scene of the surrounding area, the album wears its heart on its sleeve and presents eighteen hard-hitting tracks that can almost form a brief history of the unique, parochial take on the genre that has seen a plethora of talented musicians spring up and give life to a musical community.

Bands here feature the legendary talents of the scene forerunners Acrimony, proteges Taint and even the reincarnation of Acrimony members in the outstanding Sigiriya as well as many, many more.

In keeping with the spirit of the venture, the artwork adorning the album has been created by former Taint/Hark frontman Jimbob Isaac notable not only for its striking visual that beautifully encapsulates the varied landscape that Wales possesses but also because of the artist himself being so embedded in the heart and soul of the musical community.

Sonically it is an absolute treasure trove in terms of the music and the chosen artists. For the cost of £15 you get eighteen tracks, a 44-page zine like booklet which documents the whole thing, it is a limited release of 250 copies and if that is not enough an incentive to purchase a copy, then you can do so in the knowledge that all profits will go to the Swansea branch of Maggies, a charity which provides free one to one cancer support and information.

I mean, seriously… not only are they practically giving it away at this point, but they come off the back of this cleaner than Gordon Brown facing questions about MPs second jobs. So, to the music of which there is a lot to cover for the familiar and uninitiated.

Kicking off with spiritual grandfathers of this compilation Acrimony, the pioneers of the UK, not just Welsh stoner scene, contribute Satellite 19 from their 2003 split with Church of Misery. Fans of the scene and the eagle of eyed will hear the legacy of the band writ large as towards the end Sigiriya, the band born from an almost Acrimony reunion, deliver the excellent rich stoner vibes of Mantis. Elsewhere you’ll notice the powerful vocals of Matt Williams who stops by with his other band HWDU to drop some punk style belligerence, but also Suns Of Thunder showing the closeness and as Dirk Gently would say, ‘interconnectedness of all things’.

a worthy cause and an educational experience wrapped into one awesomely packaged, inexpensive release that will delight from start to finish…

Elsewhere there is top notch progressive stoner from the sadly no longer active Bomb The Sun, bullish hard-hitting schizophrenic post-rock from the aforementioned Taint and driving proto hard rock from the likes of Screaming Eagle and Buffalo Kings.

Pretty much every flavour of the stoner/sludge/doom axis is on display here, all imbibed with that cultural uniqueness that comes from the region. From the gravelly roaring doom of the likes of Circle Of Stones and Dead Wolves to the desert rock of Indian Queens or Sootbelly and the murky sludge of Mines, this is an album brimming with incredible bands, some of them too sadly short lived and all of them worthy of your time, here or elsewhere.

I opened this piece saying it was a thankless task to review a compilation and that is purely because I can’t go into detail about every single song in the short time I have, but whether you like rock with a more commercial type flavour, or ferocious savagery then From The Mountain To The Sea has more than just something for you.

A special mention to lone female voice in Sump, alas yet another great band gone too soon, Holohan’s voice cutting through and commanding attention and the better than QOTSA recent output Marshland Massacre for their standout contributions.

In short, this a bargain, a worthy cause and an educational experience wrapped into one awesomely packaged, inexpensive release that will delight from start to finish. Not many complications can say that, but this was painstakingly put together with pride and passion and it shows. As a long-standing champion of the UK scene, it was almost tempting to hammer ‘It’s fucking great’ onto the page 333 times.

Label: Lavender Sweep Records

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden