Mountain of Smoke are thunderous, which is impressive given that they are, at an elemental level, a bass-and-drum duo. For the past four years, drummer PJ Costigan and bassist/vocalist Brooks Wilhoite have pummeled audiences with their sludgy, high volume doom metal, churned out of Wilhoite’s pair of towering high-gain amps, powered by Costigan’s relentless bashing assault. That deafening roar was captured in studio in 2014 on a 10-song eponymous album based on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
Mountain of Smoke, Wilhoite said, came about around the time he and Costigan’s old band, a heavy Dallas-based noise rock outfit called Big Fiction, started winding down after six years.
“Big Fiction toured for so long,” Wilhoite said. “But sleeping on people’s floors, the whole grind of it … PJ was kind over it. But we know what the ceiling for something like Mountain of Smoke is. Let’s say Mountain of Smoke became the best sludge metal band of all time. That means we would still have to have jobs when we come home and still tour for not a lot of money. There’s not really a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for a band like us. If the right opportunity came up, maybe. There was a time when The Sword kicked around the idea of taking us on the road, but PJ likes his job. And I don’t really love being on the road that much, so it doesn’t bother me.”
“That much” is relative, because Wilhoite still enjoys touring to some degree, which is how he wound up joining a heavy space rock band from Austin called From Beyond back in May.
From Beyond, the brainchild of Rob McCarthy, formed in 2012. McCarthy crewed it with friends who would learn his songs. Wilhoite, who has known the drummer and guitar player for more than a decade, was asked to join after the band’s fill-in bass player couldn’t do a spring tour opening for The Sword.
“Before that, I’d had to turn down a European tour with a band called Dead to a Dying World, and my wife knew how it had bummed me out that I didn’t get to go,” Wilhoite said. “And she loves those two dudes in From Beyond, so she was super into me doing that tour.”
In a stroke of luck, the tour put the band in front of the right set of ears.
“By chance, someone on Spinefarm was eating dinner at the restaurant attached to the place in Brooklyn we were booked at and saw us play,” Wilhoite continued. “And the ball started rolling, and we signed a deal with them.”
Spinefarm is a Finnish heavy metal label that’s been a subsidiary of Universal Music Group since 2002. So From Beyond’s deal is, well, kind of a big deal. During the negotiations, the band recorded an album for a projected release in the fall. Though From Beyond is still working out the logistics of its major label debut, the band is not idle.
“A lot of the material on the record is stuff he already had, but he’s opened up to more input,” Wilhoite said. “He had me write lyrics for a song, and the stuff we’re working on right now is way more collaborative … it’s been good.”
While From Beyond hammers out the other pieces of its trajectory, Wilhoite and Costigan will continue to grind out their sludgy sci-fi jams. After all, Mountain of Smoke formed in the first place because Wilhoite loves playing music.
“Before that From Beyond tour got offered to me, I was very content to be in a band with a close friend, where we could get together and practice, or go get a beer or watch a movie,” Wilhoite said. “There wasn’t any stress. It kind of reinvigorated me.”