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Black Mountain - IV (Album Review)

Wednesday, 30 March 2016 Written by Graeme Marsh

If you want to know what to expect from Canadian rockers Black Mountain’s fourth LP, then there’s a bit of a clue in the title. Whether it’s an intentional reference to Led Zeppelin’s back catalogue or not, they’ve ploughed the ‘70s rock field since they formed 12 years ago and at times ‘IV’ leaves you in little doubt as to its influences.

Bookended by two colossal epics, Mothers Of The Sun and Space To Bakersfield, the five piece cross various classic rock checkpoints during a record that runs to almost an hour, stopping to coat them in their trademark synths.

For eight and a half minutes the opening track utilises a thunderous Sabbath-like riff amid spacey keyboards, while the intertwining voices of Stephen McBean and the angelic Amber Webber work wonders.

When the band first appeared back in 2004, Webber’s quivering vocals sounded nervous, occasionally forced even, but since honing her skills further with Lightning Dust, Kodiak Deathbeds and McBean’s own experimental outlet Pink Mountaintops she has become a major asset, her subtle tones providing gorgeous contrast.

Space To Bakersfield is even longer, at over nine minutes, and possesses the mellow undertones associated with Pink Floyd’s finest moment, Comfortably Numb. The canvas is nicely set for McBean to weigh in with fuzzy wah pedal guitars and weave a mystical spell.

Another near nine minute monster (Over And Over) The Chain, meanwhile, builds a vibrant, other-worldly atmosphere before an ominous, mind-shattering guitar line pierces the cloudy mystique. The much shorter Constellations excites with its main riff throughout – think the Cult’s Wild Flower, or before that AC/DC’s Rock ‘n' Roll Singer – with synths floating on top. As with many cuts here, the punchy, punk-meets-the-futuristic Florian Saucer Attack creates a sci-fi setting, with Webber delivering a classic Siouxsie Sioux vocal.

Slow burning gem Defector matches the mood of psychedelic stoner-rock masterpiece Set Us Free, from the band’s eponymous debut, but with added keys and compelling wah guitar. Cemetery Breeding is possibly the most commercial cut on ‘IV’, though, with McBean’s mesmerising vocals embellishing another excellent track despite some teenage lyrics (“...fucking in the graveyard”) and clichés (“I will love you forever”).

To be frank, ‘IV’ is like a good book that you just cannot put down, with a stunning new twist at every turn. It’s a mammoth tale embedded within the world of classic rock, but at the same time a projection into the dark void that is the future. It is, as well as being Black Mountain’s best work to date, one of those rare albums that’s likely to unearth a new favourite track every time you play it. This one’s for keeps.

Black Mountain Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat April 09 2016 - BRIGHTON Concorde 2
Sun April 10 2016 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Tue April 12 2016 - LONDON Electric Ballroom

Click here to compare & buy Black Mountain Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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