Vancouver’s Black Mountain are on to their third album, having dazzled their fans with an intriguing mix of styles and structures on their last outing, 2008′s In The Future.
Now we are in the future, the good news for lovers of that record is this one is every bit as good – and if anything sounds more confident and assured.
At the heart of Black Mountain’s music is the exquisite chemistry between singers Stephen McBean and Amber Webber, making songs like Rollercoaster smoulder with passion, in this case working over a low slung riff of which Jimmy Page would be proud.
This tension is emphatically released in Let Spirits Ride, a cracking rocker that opens the throttle and heads for the high hills, baring its teeth like the shark on the striking cover image. Sure, the riff may derive from Black Sabbath, Motorhead even, but it’s the most thrilling moment on the album.
This wouldn’t be the case if it weren’t for the different styles surrounding it, such as the Pink Floydisms in Buried By The Blues, where an explicit lyrical reference to the “piper at the gates to still you from the dawn” pays tribute, before dissolving into a serene coda.
Throughout there appears to be a brooding, darker centre to the music that we occasionally get to see, and which seems almost incomprehensible given the relative bonhomie of the album’s opener. While in the penultimate track, McBean delights in “riding the crazy blue waves through the space of your mind”, the final Sadie is a powerful semi-ballad that pleads with the woman of the title to “come down, it’s time to come home”, as “things became vulgar when we became silent”.
It’s these hints of darkness, together with an ability to take on several differing styles of music in the course of one album, that make Black Mountain such a compelling listen. They remain a captivating proposition, with an arsenal of powerful riffs now at their disposal.