Review: Mouth of the Architect – Path of Eight

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Old Man Doom projects into the astral realms with Mouth of the Architect‘s newest full length.

Post-metal stalwarts Mouth of the Architect are back with an expansive, yet introspective, concept album that explores the self’s journey after death. Inspired by Buddhist eschatology and otherworldly phenomenon, as well as earthbound experiences of human tragedy, Path of Eight tells the story of a soul, disembodied and thrust into infinity, searching for and finding oblivion in the wake of the death of consciousness. Heavy shit to be sure, but what does it sound like? The post-metal tag is often a deal-breaker for listeners, evoking generic sludge riffs mashed up with echoey guitar leads that indulge in an unauthentic brand of emotional catharsis over tens of minutes per song. Sound about right? Wrong. MotA are looking to shake things up with Path of Eight, and they are able to execute this progression with authority.

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One of the most notable aspects of this album, in comparison to MotA’s past work and the post-metal genre in general, is the short form song structures. The longest song herein maxes out at  7 minutes, while the majority of the album features songs in the 4-5 minute range on average. This may not sound remarkable, but given that MotA belong to a genre that tends to push the limits of listener attention spans, it is a welcome change. Whilst still occasionally stirring up the repetitious maelstroms that post-metal is known for, the most interesting and rewarding part of Path of Eight is its hook-laden, noise-inflected themes that seem to swell up to triumphant heights and subsequently fade within a single 5 minute song. And with each track boasting its own unique – not same old, same old – thematic structure, Path of Eight possesses what is, in my opinion, one of the highest playback values in the post-metal genre this year.

On another note, the triple vocal attack that Path of Eight brings to bear across all 8 tracks is a strong element to which I find myself consistently drawn. I like to describe vocals on display as honest. Now, that bears a bit of explanation on my part: I say “honest” because all three vocalists are not necessarily the most gifted or strongest of performers; however, their genuinely emotive hooks carry the weight of individuals who are reporting in from the threshold of death’s realm. These are the cries of lost souls in the void, singing out a desperate swan song before falling into oblivion’s clutches. Many of the clean vocal moments specifically recall Toby Driver’s (Kayo Dot) foray into vulnerable and weird territory on Coffins on Io. For example, the Driver-esque vocals on “Stretching Out” are literally stretching out with the song’s lazily drifting riffage, while the distorted death prayer intoned in “Ritual Bell” evokes the ever indistinct disembodiment of a soul escaping the material world.

“Fever Dream” is just that: a feverish ride accompanied by a noisy, delayed lead guitar sidewinding over a groovy, psychedelic chord progression that smolders with intensity until it all explodes into nuclear overdrive. In fact, all the song titles evoke the sonic qualities therein, due in part to the overarching conceptual arc that MotA have carefully crafted. “The Priestess” is commanded into being by sensual female vocals, swaying oracle-like to the solar wind sound of background guitars and synths. “Sever the Soul” is one of the heavier, faster tracks on the album, and rightfully so, as it represents the soul’s final moments of consciousness before being torn apart in the void.

Path of Eight’s commitment to atmosphere is masterful. Like their musical cousins in The Atlas Moth and Kayo Dot, MotA strive to envelope listeners first in the cosmic darkness of the great beyond, then in the light of eternal oblivion – emphasizing setting over scene. Alongside synths, MotA drive home the noisy psychedelia element of their sound here (fuzzy blues-inflicted leads, washy chords, distorted vocals) in an apparent effort to narrativize the gradual, entropic return of all consciousness to chaos. I have found that most every element on display here is narratively linked in some way to the album’s concept, creating an incredibly affecting listen that rewards repeated listening.

I found myself reaching for some really overwrought and expansive descriptions when drafting this review, which is something I try to stay away from. For better or worse, the descriptions herein can only merely suggest the vastness of the strangely lit void which this album spawns. On the surface, MotA have crafted a solid piece of post-metal that manages to keep listeners’ attentions with more concise times whilst covering great distances with uniquely structured songs – which is more than most post-metal bands can claim nowadays. Diving into the songs reveals a beating heart, pulsing out the story-driven narrative in time with the groovy riffs and off-kilter time signatures. Going into producing this album, MotA claimed that they needed a fresh start, a new perspective to keep from doing the same things time and again in a genre that sees little in the way of true progression.  I think Path of Eight does exactly that, appealing to the adventurous listener whilst rooting itself in genre convention. As such, it never feels like it’s flown too close to the sun.

For me, it’s a late, but more than welcome, addition to my end of the year list and to my introspective, exploratory playlist.

4.5 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

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Go take a spiritual journey with Mouth of the Architect on Facebook and purchase Path of Eight on Bandcamp.

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  • slipjackthewanderer

    Great review. This album seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle of quality releases this year.

  • Joaquin Stick

    Nice job OMD. I listened to this on release day and was a little disappointed. I was frantically doing some work at the time though and maybe just didn’t pay close enough attention. I’ll have to listen with some of your thoughts in mind. Drown the Old stood out as a pretty good track though.

    • Old Man Doom

      It does suffer a bit from a lack of punishing, heavy riffs. You’d think that it being a post-metal album that listeners would get more riffs than they could handle. But it ends up being way more atmospheric and cinematic than expected. Hooky, but still atmospheric. Perhaps this is where your disappointment stems from?

      Personally, I was looking for a change of pace from just ignorant heaviness and I came across this album at just the right time.

      • Joaquin Stick

        Yeah I think so. It was probably my inability to pay attention to the slower cinematic parts (at the time), so it just came off as unmemorable. Will give it another shot for sure when I have less going on.

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  • Hubert

    I can always appreciate quality post-metal. Great review ODM.

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

    I do like some post-metal; Neurosis is one of my favorite metal bands in existence, Isis’ Oceanic and Panopticon are fantastic, Cult of Luna, The Ocean and Rosetta did a few equally amazing albums and Amenra is Belgium’s #1 metal pride.
    For some reason though I never really checked out Mouth of the Architect. Need to give these guys a more thorough listen

    • Damage_Inc89

      I like Neurosis a lot when I listen to them, but I never seem to make a point to. I’ve gotta fix that. Same with Isis, although I’m not nearly familiar with them as I should be.

      This review made me really want to check this album out.

  • xengineofdeathx

    I’ve always liked these guys, even though I miss the old lineup. I’ve been wanting to check this out… The Worm is one of the most cathartic songs ever.

    • Old Man Doom

      The opening track, “Ritual Bell,” slays my feels every goddamn time I hear it. Cathartic as fuck.

      • xengineofdeathx

        Fuck yes I am now stoked, hoping to give it some of my undivided attention this weekend. Also, I am all about some Buddhist dealing with death themes in metal. The Tibetan book of the Dead is one of the most fucking metal things ever.

        • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

          Tibetan Buddhist stuff + death metal =

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LQd0IoJ25M

          • xengineofdeathx

            Indeed, Suffocation also did it pretty awesomely.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Suffocation used to do most things pretty awesomely. The stuff they’ve been releasing since their s/t has been rather stale though. The unfuckwithable quality of the first few Suffo albums raised the bar unreasonably high for the band.
            That guitar tone on Effigy still is something else. Muddy and grimy as hell.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIrUA6AJ6IE

          • xengineofdeathx

            Honestly I think Pinnacle of Bedlam is one of their best, Blood oath and souls to deny were maybe not the best, but I’ve enjoyed all their albums. The breakdown on Liege of Inveracity will forever slay!

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I wouldn’t call any of Suffo’s albums “bad”. Personally I just have a soft spot for their older classic albums like Effigy and Pierced.

          • xengineofdeathx

            I do for sure too. Also love Despise the Sun. S/t has some of my favorite songs ever by them though. Esp Bind Torture Kill.

          • HEAVY

          • Dave Vincent’s Perm

            I get that same tone by plugging my Metal Zone into a subwoofer

  • Waynecro

    Fantastic work, Old Man Doom. I read a mini review of this album in Decibel the other day, and I’ve been meaning to check it out since then. The timing of your review is awesome, and the review itself is stellar. Thanks!

    • Old Man Doom

      Thank you, Waynecro. It was one of the first albums this year that grabbed my attention instantly and made me say, “I gotta write.”

      • Waynecro

        That’s awesome, man. I’m digging what I’ve heard so far.

  • cxj

    ‘Dawning’ and ‘Quietly’ were my jams; this one feels way scaled back, and as a result, a little flat. Mad respect for this band in general though.

    • Old Man Doom

      I totally respect that. I’ve been a little burnt out on post-metal as of late (despite it being my favorite subgenre), so the scaled-back quality of it appeals to me as a different approach to a genre that usually emphasizes denseness.

  • W.

    Solid review, my man. I’m gonna check this out.

  • Howard Dean

    “This building needs more cantilevers!”

    -Mouth of the Architect

  • I have consistently ignored this band. But your top-notch review is forcing me to reconsider.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    Old Man DOOOOOOOOM!

    Excellent write up my man. I haven’t been in much of a mood for this type of jmas, but I will try to check this out when I get the chance