Track Guide: Mt. Onsra – Sacred Time

Having originally reconnected remotely during lockdown, Simon Allen and Russell “Rusty” Cleave’s first outing as Mt. Onsra on 2022’s ‘Written In Silence’ set the foundations for what would become their new album, ‘Sacred Time’. Rich, ominous, spacious, and brooding are some of the words you can use to describe the multi-instrumentalists’ sound. From the outset, ‘Emergent’ and ‘Fever Dream’ grasp hold of your attention with Allen’s despairing, soul-searching words and Rusty’s pensive musicianship.

Throughout dynamic guitars and an intense aura threads songs such as ‘I Question I‘ and ‘Revelation’ together. Whereas ‘The Depths We Dive’ is delivered with harmonious grit, and ‘The Kings Return’ embraces glitchy electronica and a foreboding organ. When it’s all collected together, you’re left with an intimate but expansive set of songs that organically reveal themselves with each listen. Some moments are dark and mysterious, with occasional glimpses of optimism, leaning into the introspective lyrical narration.

As we come to learn from this track-by-track piece by Mt. Onsra, each song on ‘Sacred Time’ is a puzzle. Thankfully, both Simon Allen and Russell “Rusty” Cleave provide some answers in this Track Guide feature.


Rusty: ‘Emergent’ came from a basic idea by Simon. It’s the only song we broke the format of me sending Simon an instrumental then he works on vocals/melodies/lyrics and any added atmospherics such as synths/sound effects/string parts and Piano. This time, I was sent a basic outline with vocals to expand on and arrange into a song and a play around with the dynamics.

Simon: This one came from me playing about with Decent Sampler and getting some interesting sounds. Basically, I was trying to recreate something that Russ would play. Lyrically, this is about the long road towards acceptance. Acceptance of what was, what is and what can be.

Fever Dream

Rusty: I was listening to a fair amount of King Crimson and Slint (as always) around the time I put this together. I was really playing with polyrhythms; two different time signatures on top of each other to make a complex texture between everything. (There is a lot of this on the album).

Simon: When Russ sends me a track, it’s always like receiving a complex puzzle that I need to live inside for a while to understand what it needs me to do with it. This one was easy, it is a universal message that regardless of what has happened to you in life, good and bad, there is an endless universal sound that ties us together.

I Question I

Rusty: This song came from just laying around on the sofa with a guitar on a weekend and noodling as a lot of material for most bands do. The main riff came out in a weird time signature which stoked my interest in making a song from it. Actually, it felt pretty natural until I sent it to Simon and he said “Dude this song is in 9!?”. Luckily he likes a puzzle to solve.

Simon: What can I say, I love singing in 9! The puzzle that Russ gave me on this one was immense but enjoyable. It gave me the opportunity to explore the idea that sometimes losing something can be the best thing to happen to you.


Simon: This is the song that gave us the album title. Most of the time I let my subconscious take care of writing lyrics, which enables me to be free to ‘feel’ the words. This is what happened here and I am sure that the meaning will reveal itself ‘in time’.

Rusty: This one just fell out, Sometimes two parts for a song is enough haha.


Rusty: This was the first song we wrote for ‘Sacred Time’. It was a track where I wanted to step up from the first album, ‘Written In Silence’. You could say the first one where we really started putting in the effort knowing that we were going to record this in the same room with amps and a drumkit, as opposed to the last album in lockdown that was fully digital amps and Vdrums. Although we didn’t stop writing after ‘WIS’, this was the first one of the songs after that period. Discordant/hypnotic but melodic clean guitar parts were what I was aiming for. Again very polyrhythmic and intricate. 

Simon: This album has allowed me to explore a lot of themes and issues that I thought I’d buried a very long time ago, but time has a habit of shining a light on things long forgotten. I grew up in an Evangelical Christian household and the imagery from the Book of Revelation loomed large in that culture. As a kid, and for many years, I went to bed convinced that I would go to Hell should I die in my sleep because I hadn’t been saved. Looking back at this now, what a horrific traumatic thought process for a kid to carry around. This song was a massive release when I realised that the only Revelation we truly need is to treat others the way you’d want to be treated yourself!

The Depths We Dive

Rusty: I wrote this around the same time as ‘Fever Dream’. Again it’s got a feel of some of the music I grew up on; Slint, Sonic Youth, Shipping News, and Pavement with a healthy dose of Prog for the chorus.

Simon: This was one of two songs that took me a long time to solve the musical puzzle on. A looming deadline helped me dive into the depths to question how some of my own negative ‘self-talk’ was affecting me and, firstly, acknowledging it as a thing in my life.

The Kings Return

Rusty: This wasn’t meant to be a MO song but I was just really craving building some music in a sequencer. I was heavily revisiting the first FKA Twigs album at the time and got super inspired.

I made a guitar part to go over the loop I had made. The thing with Mt. Onsra is we just make what feels good, no matter what it sounds like and I thought “This could easily be an MO track with Simon’s voice on it.” As always he sent it back with the magic on it.

Simon: The melodic line of the guitar is so strong on this all I needed to was sing along (cheers Russ!) Lyrically it’s an exploration of growing up and the chorus hints at an old protestant hymnal.


Rusty: I had the idea of making a song at the BPM of a relaxed heartbeat to create something more meditative. Set the metronome off and started working out a part. It felt like breaking out of the one riff would break the meditation. So it’s one part with changing dynamics over the top to give the illusion that it’s changing. 

Simon: Timeless, connected, interdependent… that’s the universe and we are a tiny tiny part of it.


Rusty: I think this was the second song we pieced together after the completion of the first album. I played the riff into a loop pedal and toyed with different parts over the top. Again, this is a more hypnotic one-part song that evolves through building the dynamic, and overlaying parts that give the illusion of change. 

Simon: A quick one to write and put us on the road for the second album. With this album, I wanted to have some moments where we could all sing together. This was the first one of them. Digging in lyrically it’s all about how no matter how bad things can get, always look for the light.

‘Sacred Time’ by Mt. Onsra is out now on South of Devon Records.

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