Quantum – Down the Mountainside (2024)

Quantum - Down the Mountainside (2024)
Artist: Quantum
Album: Down the Mountainside
Genre: Heavy Prog
Label: Black Lodge
Year Of Release: 2024
Quality: FLAC (tracks)

1. The Hivemind & The Cockroach
2. On the Verge
3. Down the Mountainside Pt.1
4. Moths & Leaves
5. Abstract Bliss
6. Dots
7. Down the Mountainside Pt.2
8. The Last Stone


– Anton Ericsson / bass, vocals, guitars, keyboards, double bass, FX
– Marcus Lundberg / drums, vocals, FX
– Samuel Walfridsson / guitars
– Fredrik Reinholdsen / guitars

– Richard Henshall / guitar solo
– Tom MacLean / guitar solo

Down the Mountainside is Swedish prog rock quartet Quantum’s debut album and the band’s first release since their 2020 EP The Next Breath of Air. This latest offering is both more accessible and more adventurous than Quantum’s earlier work. The album’s eight songs cover a musical gamut, ranging from the aggressive, riff leaden ‘The Last Stone’ to the straightforward but dulcet acoustic number ‘Dots. While the production quality is in someways inferior to The Next Breath of Air, with the instrumental arrangements feeling at times too relentlessly cluttered and dense – rendering lead singer and bassist, Anton Ericsson’s vocals too thin – Down the Mountainside is nonetheless a commendable debut album, and Quantum are a band to take note of moving forward.

A solid opening track, Hivemind and the Cockroach features driving rhythms and vocal melodies which in and of themselves are quite good. In what is a minor albeit recurring fault throughout the album, Quantum are over reliant on terraced dynamics to manage dynamic changes. As a technique, it has a place, especially in prog-rock, but the track’s dynamic variation would be well served by the odd crescendo or diminuendo to smooth out the transitions.

On the Verge peaks with its first guitar solo, which is evocative of early Dream Theatre. Unfortunately, it is otherwise a victim of overly busy production and instrumental passages that linger for just a moment too long.

Featuring an interesting blend of jazz infused-guitar work and vocal arrangements that in sections are almost choral alongside, Down the Mountainside, Pt. 1 is an exciting mix of the usual bluesy riffing with more experimental passages. Similar to On the Verge, it indulges itself at times, but its peaks are higher, and the overall production is much tighter.

Art critic Robert Hughes famously deployed the phrase ‘shock of the new’ to describe the visceral reaction audiences have when witnessing once familiar mediums transformed or subverted by new and innovative approaches. More than any other song on the album, Moths and Leaves encapsulates this concept. The opening passage is decidedly retro, evoking Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter with an ethereal, effects drenched guitar accompanied by Ericsson’s delicate vocals. Abruptly interrupting this remembrance of rock’s past is an almost pop-punk like sequence which in turn gives way to some blistering jazz fusion guitarwork redolent of Japanese legends Casiopea. In what proves to be one of the album’s more pleasantly head scratching moments, jazz fusion segues into a brief and bizarre but not unwelcome big band swing interlude. These transitions take a moment to acclimate to, but once accepted are enjoyable and creatively compelling.

Fans of Tool will be particularly fond of Abstract Bliss which opens with Ericsson giving his best Maynard James Keenan impression over an Adam Jones-esque palm muted guitar riff. Abstract Bliss is a well-crafted song that clearly evinces why it was chosen as the album’s lead single. Too often prog rock can devolve into mindless guitar meandering and droning vocal melodies. By employing the same pop-punk vocal inflections that were on display in Moths and Leaves, Quantum sidesteps this pitfall by building into an incredibly catchy and stylistically interesting chorus.

Dots is a welcome change of pace in the form of a whimsical acoustic ballad. Reminiscent of the hazy psychedelia of Pink Floyd’s Green is the Colour, Ericsson waxes lyrical about longing. The chorus features some truly beautiful vocal harmonies and string passages that perfectly punctuate the sense of despair imbued hopefulness that pervades the song. Quantum’s song writing chops are arguably at their peak in shorter, more understated compositions like Dots and Abstract Bliss which do not lose themselves in unnecessary and repetitive instrumental noodling.

Discordant, djent-like riffing introduces Down the Mountainside, Pt. 2, a mostly instrumental variation-on-a-theme mix of musical motifs found elsewhere on the album. The brief vocal passages switch between snarls and soaring melodies and overall, the song is a pleasing series of riffs and guitar solos that will undoubtedly induce headbanging.

A brief media sample and an ominous bass introduce The Last Stone, the last and longest song of the album. Aside from an arpeggiated sequence around three-minute mark which runs for slightly too long, the song is the perfect prog rock mix of aggressive and tranquil. From a crawling power chord riff that would not be out of place on a Megadeth album, to the delightfully poppy initial vocal sequence, The Last Stone is all of Quantum’s genre-bending talents captured in the one song.

Down the Mountainside is a highly listenable, and occasionally stylistically innovative album where all songs have their moments, although some are guilty of being either overlong or too dynamically static. Its’ catchy riffs and crisp melodies are sure to please both long-time prog rock fans and newcomers. The latter of whom are likely to find that it provides a palatable gateway into an often-inaccessible genre.
~ Josh Brannon

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