Welcome to Black Mountain: New and Unique Progressive Rock

Unfortunately I haven't been able to listen to a whole lot of new bands recently. I have lots in my queue all lined up including a couple that I think are really interesting that I just haven't formalized exactly what I want to say about them yet (and for some it's been months since they were suggested or I first found them... also unfortunate). It's been a combination of a very hectic schedule and technical problems that have caused this little drought, both of which still continue. Most new bands I see I take a quick first listen to and then come back to them later, which is what takes the most time as I like to really delve as deep as I can that second time and put a lot of thought into what I want to say. This time that first listen impressed me so much that I rushed the process in order to get this music out to all of who might be interested asap... I think it's that intriguing... and that's just from two songs.

The band is called Black Mountain, they hail from Vancouver and are a collaboration of artists from a few different bands, I think. Perhaps you've heard of them as they have done a few things outside of their first album and recently had a nice little mention in a little music magazine called Rolling Stone. Feel Free to check out that piece here: http://www.rollingstone.com/blogs/breaking/2008/01/breaking-artist-black-mountain.php

I've had their name floating around in my head for a while, not from suggestions but just as a name that has popped up a time or two and the other day when I caught that Rolling Stone snippet, I decided to take a listen right then and there.

As for their music, I guess they fall under the stoner rock category, although I think that's kind of limiting as even the few songs I've heard show some tremendous range. They definitely have a touch of Black Sabbath glory to their hard rockin' guitar riffs, but there are also shades of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Velvet Underground, Jefferson Airplane, and some modern bands like the Smashing Pumpkins, Queens of the Stone Age and Tool. All comparisons aside, I think this band really puts together some compelling compositions that are beyond your typical hard rock songwriting both lyrically and melodically.

So as I said, I've only really heard two songs from the group. Technical problems prevent me from checking out the music on the band's Myspace page, but these two were available for download on their site and are definitely worth checking out.

Song #1:
"Druganaut" is the first of these two and is from the band's first release: Black Mountain. From the very start it has a killer pulsing beat. It kind of swaggers and sways, making you want to bop your head with your eyes closed and just drink it in... as is the case with most stoner rock. Combined with some minimal guitar parts and lyrics and the track sinks into a very hypnotic groove that is haunting and just ever so slightly twisted, especially in the vocals which are just slight echo-like syllables that go back and forth. And then thick guitars roar through that minimal riff, which is great, but it's the lyrical melody and especially the contrast between differing vocal shades, both male and female that really push this track. It's got that touch of the psychedelic when the guitar parts shift into this sort of interlocking melody made up of very contrasting parts from each side of the stereo image. Overall, a very cool song that is actually pretty sparse in terms of parts, instrumentation, even notes, but still sounds huge.

Song #2:
When it comes to huge, "Tyrants" from the band's up coming release, In the Future, looks to set the stage perfectly with a rolling massive wall of guitar, drum and organ sound to open the track. The riff is just massively epic (we're talking Rush style massively epic), all fuzzed out and great. The song shifts gears dramatically though, pulling back to a slow grind, with just a touch of guitar chords and soft drums to back the vocals. There's a sense of melancholy to the lyrical melody that is emphasized by haunting backing vocals that fade in and out. There's a touch of acoustic guitar and flutes (I think? might be synth flutes or recorders), like a break in the clouds, and then this slower grind returns but stronger and fuller, with more great contrasting vocal shades. And then those huge guitars are back with a massive grinding riff, some interesting soaring synth parts over top and great vocal work...again. Another shift takes on a march like beat with some great dual guitar melody before surging into a full on massive wall of drums and guitars. The song concludes with another touch of acoustic guitars and vocals, creating one massive 8 minute epic. It may be long but it goes quickly with all the changing textures that at first seem like they wouldn't mix, but really seem to work towards an overall feel and one complete work with tons of depth.

I don't normally discuss single tracks that in depth, but those two tracks make for one heck of a "welcome to Black Mountain" and I'm quite impressed, impressed enough to write and those two are all I've heard so far. Although I hear other bands within their music, it's quite a unique sound as well, one that is quite artistic and deep, good philosophical headphones music, but also pretty hard hitting... I'm really looking forward to hearing more from this group.

The band's first album debuted in 2005, but their latest is due out on January 22nd, 2008, so in just a few days. What's cool is that you can currently pre-order this new release on the band's site, AND they'll send you a code to download it in advance for free. They also are releasing, for the same price, a deluxe version of the album that is 2 disks and contains and additional 3 recordings. Plus, if that wasn't enough, you can order the albums on LP, for those of you who prefer vinyl. Personally, I've been so intrigued by these two songs that I'm considering just picking up that deluxe edition right now, along with their first album as well.

If you're into progressive rock, I think this is a band you should check out asap. Some people who prefer more lofi or minimalist music may object to the band's epic sound. Don't worry though, they may sound massive, but I don't find it overtly melodramatic at all... just huge and even a little grandiose... which really works for the melodies and sounds they are creating. I think you'll enjoy your visit to the Black Mountain and take this band to heart as they sound like they're gonna be big.

My technical problems have nothing to do with Myspace or the band's page so don't hesitate to check out the band's page there as they might have some songs I haven't heard yet: http://www.myspace.com/blackmountain

Also, although you can purchase the band's albums through other venues (like Amazon if you prefer), the prices look a bit better if you go to them direct more directly. You can purchase their albums from their website, can download the two songs I've discussed in depth here and read news and other entries from the band here: http://www.blackmountainarmy.com/

There's also a video or two on YouTube if you're craving more like I am. Worth checking out as well.

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