Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 21/4
Written by: BV on 13/04/2016 22:11:10
I was beginning to accept that Black Mountain, one of my all-time favorite bands, would probably not release any new material any time soon. My reasoning, you may ask? Well, time itself, as the band’s third effort “Wilderness Heart” came out in 2010 and was only followed by a semi-interesting soundtrack album to a film called “Year Zero”. Six years down the line and one Pink Mountaintops album later (Pink Mountaintops being front-man Stephen McBean’s other project), the prospect of a new Black Mountain album seemed dim at best, when suddenly, practically out of nowhere, “IV” was announced and set for release on April 1st 2016.
Debut single and album opener “Mothers of the Sun” instantaneously displayed many of the strengths which Black Mountain effectively draw upon. They are no doubt well-versed in rock history and often times manage to condense that very same knowledge on rock n’ roll’s past into a sound that is distinctly their own. It’s not quite prog-rock, nor is it stoner metal. Is it doom? Sometimes, yes, but mostly it’s rock music played the way Black Mountain experience it. Now, “Mothers of the Sun” is a lengthy track and as such it develops gradually from a fierce, almost howling guitar-riff over to futuristic synthesizer sounds and eerie vocals and right back to that riff, the instantly recognizable and headbanging-friendly riff. But that’s actually just it. There’s not much more to it, and as an album opener it does give off a fairly unfavorable impression of the album as whole. As it is followed by “Florian Saucer Attack”, a fast-paced track reminiscent of both Hawkwind (if Hawkwind had been a tighter, more structured band) with a twist of some kind of post-80’s arena rock to it, it is abundantly clear that “IV” is out to display the many different facets of Black Mountain.
On tracks like “Defector” it is quite interesting to note the beauty that is Amber Webber and Stephen McBean’s dual vocals and their often soothing sounds coupled with dread-filled lyrics like; ”I don’t believe in suicide / rock n’ roll’s contagious smile / ain’t foolin’”. These lyrics provide a perfect counterpoint to Jeremy Schmidt’s evocative synthesizers and McBean’s funky guitar fills, and quite frankly the track is far better off because of it. “Constellations” is a fairly straightforward rocker driven by a persistent riff and Joshua Wells’ drumming, occasionally topped off by yet another peculiar synth-lead and the sporadic yet haunting vocals provided by Webber as beautiful counterpart to Mcbean’s hazier voice.
“Line Them All Up” displays the more folk-influenced sound of Black Mountain and it seems there always has to be at least one track in that vein on every one of their albums, as if to soften up the otherwise fully-loaded sonic barrage. If it’s a conscious choice, I’d label it a smart decision (as I probably would regardless of conscience) as these tender moments are part of the essential Black Mountain package by now, and are thus part of the overall coherence. For reference it could be said that the self-titled debut had “Heart of Snow”, “In the Future” had “Stay Free” and “Wilderness Heart” had “Sadie” – among others.
In spite of a relatively slow start and the equally meandering “(Over and Over) The Chain” I can confidently say that “IV” is probably my favorite Black Mountain album - save for the impeccable “In the Future” which I personally rank as a modern classic. Following that logic, Black Mountain might just have released one of 2016’s most interesting albums for those of us who are crazy about spacy sounds, psychedelic vibes and glorious riffs.
Download: Defector, You Can Dream, Constellations, Florian Saucer Attack
For the fans of: Pink Mountaintops, Dead Meadow, Wolf People
Release date 01.04.2016
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