Coming off of their most ambitious album to date, 2012’s Ugly was a means to show the music world just how much Screaming Females could do. Rose Mountain, their sixth studio album, is a polished and very straightforward rock album. Matt Bayles, who has worked extensively with Minus the Bear, Isis, and Mastodon, produced the album. Rose Mountain is easily the most accessible Screaming Females release yet, and finds them more focused and intuitive than ever before. It’s a quick, ten-song album that perfectly encapsulates their sound without having them try to be something they’re not, and it’s their most concrete release to date.
In full, Rose Mountain is more patient and mature. The album starts off with “Empty Head,” which focuses on a lengthy chorus and highlights Marissa Paternoster’s impeccable skills with the pen. It’s one of the first times we see her looking inward and expressing her current truth: “Why must I be the angry one / I won’t cry, fine line between our love / I can’t speak, but you ask / What have I done?” The song culminates very nicely and unlike much of their previous work, when Paternoster kicks off her monstrous control over the guitar nearing the end.
Much of Rose Mountain allows for breathing room and delivers its rewards with great timing. In fact, Screaming Females take a note from a parenting role. Before, they used to spoil us with all their excess, tricks, and gifts to the point where we expected it. Now, they’re holding back, and diligently planning their punches so they hit heavier. “Triumph” perfects this notion. Screaming Females have learned how to utilize a standard form of songwriting structure to benefit their uniqueness and powerfulness. When Paternoster stretches her voice and wails, “I want to feel all of the things I’ve been refused / and celebrate my first victory/ destroy my history with you,” it pays off royally.
Rose Mountain is a statement album. It’s Screaming Females at their peak and them proving why they are regarded, albeit in a small way, as one of the best modern rock groups. “It’s Not Fair” feels like an ode to classic rock, as it grounds them in that culture. “Wishing Well” features some vocal layering, and it’s a very polished, clean, and competent work that may garner in some newer fans. Paternoster even developed the catchiest and most defining guitar riff of her career on “Ripe.” That song is, in fact, the most sound and perfected song of their discography. Paternoster pens one of her most heartfelt and stinging lyrics, “Try with all my heart I choke, I’m ready to go / And if you’re through with me then please say so.” It showcases Screaming Females working together through all cylinders, and Paternoster’s vocals are the most developed and sophisticated they’ve even been.
Although the album is very straightforward and precise, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything new. “Hopeless” is a wonderfully mature and oddly serene work. It emphasizes Paternoster’s masterful progression in songwriting, and we finally find her opening herself up, even it’s only for a short time. It’s one of the first times we see her letting go of control, as she mourns, “I’m not hopeless, helpless / Or begging you to stay / It’s just turning out that way.” Also, “Criminal Image,” the album closer, contains a soft piano track, which no one saw coming from a band as rambunctious as Screaming Females are. It’s a perfect closer as it culminates everything fans love about them: soaring vocals, crass lyrics, eager drum patterns, and, of course, an infectious guitar-riff.
Rose Mountain is equivalent to going to your favorite restaurant, ordering something new, and it’s better than what you usually get. It’s a wonderful rock gem in a sea of rehashing and soulless acts. Rose Mountain has the form of a power stance. It’s their trophy and victory lap for simply being one of the best modern rock bands, and Rose Mountain proves that to be true.