Not for the first time in their history, Canadian rock outfit Black Mountain took in the small 600 capacity Victorian beachfront venue on Brighton’s Madeira Drive, Concorde 2, during a short UK visit. In 2010, the band flew over the Atlantic promoting their album from the same year, Wilderness Heart. Their return almost six years later came as part of a large worldwide tour celebrating the release of album number four – the aptly titled IV, named in true Led Zeppelin homage.
Whether intentional or not, the album title gave hint to what lay within the latest collection; a fierce, riff-laden concoction of 1970’s influenced rock, but this time catapulting keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt’s talents more to the forefront as the renowned spacey synths provided contrasting melodic bliss to band leader Stephen McBean’s thunderous, deep-toned guitar majesty.
The epic opening track from IV – Mothers Of The Sun – also opened the gig. The Black Sabbath-like, doomy riff centrepiece of the song led to a magnificently emotional beginning, the quivering, faultless vocal offered by Amber Webber that has become a vital ingredient to the band’s sound providing the perfect foil to McBean’s own gravely tones.
With the lights down low for the entire show, the cast was only fleetingly glimpsed by the crowd via dazzling flashes of light, another element of mystery to the already compelling mix of ’70s rock hurtled forward in time to a futuristic place generated by the band’s blend of sound. Sure enough, the mood was encapsulated by second song, the equally mythical Florian Saucer Attack, Webber’s punk-girl vocal delivery displaying her range of abilities superbly.
IV was given a comprehensive workout for the remainder of the performance. After Stormy High from 2008’s In The Future and Druganaut from the self-titled 2005 debut, the more commercial sounding (lyrics aside) Cemetery Breeding, You Can Dream with its pulsing percussive beat and angular guitar melody and the slower burning gem Defector all provided sublime moments. Wilderness Heart, however, enjoyed far less exposure to that of the 2010 gig, with just Old Fangs making the setlist.
Possibly the night’s biggest highlight though arrived in the shape of IV’s closing track, Space To Bakersfield. Another lengthy eight minute plus jam inspired by Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain conjured up comparisons to Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, and with the stunning chord structure in place, McBean was left to make his exemplary mark all over the track with some admirable guitar noodling.
A brief interlude followed before the calls for a return to the stage saw the five-piece walk back on to its crammed confines of the tiny stage for two encore numbers. Firstly, the final IV offering Crucify Me resurrected the music, exploding into being like a phoenix from the flames before the rousing finale of the riff-heavy Don’t Run Our Hearts Around concluded the event in ear-splitting style.
With both Webber and McBean delivering almost perfect vocal performances along with McBean’s spellbinding soloing and Schmidt’s more prevalent synth contribution, the gig was as memorable and as tight as they come, the only complaint being that the show lasted for less than an hour and a half when a back catalogue as strong as Black Mountain’s warrants a lengthier appreciation. Roll on album V.