Best Desert-Rock Band

Mount Salem

Critics' Picks

Most Chicago metal bands seem to find inspiration in its famously brutal and unforgiving winters, resulting in some of the darkest, most hateful music ever committed to tape. Local four-piece Mount Salem, on the other hand, play windswept, lysergic guitar boogie that has more in common with "desert rock," a style that evolved in the arid wilderness of southern California. The group formed in summer 2012 and the following year self-released an EP called Endless that blends witchy, organ-driven psychedelia with doomy sounds from the dawn of heavy metal—it feels like something that could've been recorded in 1970 but was too freaky and dark to find an audience till now. In March the venerable Metal Blade label released an expanded eight-song version of Endless that's beginning to attract a cult following, drawn in by its resinous riffage, the quartz-crystal vocals of front woman Emily Kopplin, and an overall vibe well suited to a bunch of long-haired weirdos hanging out on a mesa and blowing their minds into little pieces with Doors-grade mescaline.