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Black Mountain - Destroyer CD (album) cover


Black Mountain


Crossover Prog

3.74 | 8 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Black Mountain has been around since 2004 and has been making quite a name for itself, despite some line-up changes. They have released 1 EP, 5 full length albums and a soundtrack over the years. Their fifth album "Destroyer" was released in May of 2019, and has seen a major reset in the band.

While on tour for their previous album "IV", the band's equipment was stolen, and that seemed to be the demise of the band as both founding members singer Amber Webber and drummer Joshua Wells decided to leave the band when this happened. This left only Stephen McBean as the sole founding member of the band. Stephen started working with old demos and different riff ideas and started recruiting other musicians to help him out. At this time, Jeremy Schmidt, who was part of the band's previous album, started putting together synthesizer parts to go along with this, and suddenly Black Mountain was reborn. Arjan Maranda, who was also with the band for "IV" came back to help out also.

Thus, the new line-up of musicians for the album "Destroyer" are founding member Stephen McBean (vocals, guitars); returning members Jeremy Schmidt (keyboards, synths); and Arjan Miranda (bass); and new members Rachel Fannan from "Sleepy Sun" (vocals); Adam Bulgasem from "Dommengang" (drums); Kliph Scurlock from "The Flaming Lips" (drums); and Kid Millions from "Oneida" (drums). Yes, you read that right, there are 3 drummers contributing here. There were 22 tracks that were recorded from the sessions for this album and 8 of those tracks were selected for this album which has an overall run time of just under 43 minutes. The album is available on CD, Vinyl and Bandcamp download.

"Destroyer" was set up to be a quasi-soundtrack to a road trip across the desert and the tracks are sequenced as such. "Future Shade" starts off with the trademark stoner fuzz with a lot of heavy guitar and a solid riff backed by 70's style keys. Stephen's vocals are perfect for the hard-rock, psychedelic sound that the band is known for. Rachel sings in the background and proves her voice to be equal to Amber's, able to provide the high end to Stephen's lower register. There are even space rock effects from the keys later and the track keeps steam boiling throughout. The combination of vocals still give that retro hippie sound that the band was also known for. "Horns Arising" has more of a moderate, yet bluesy tempo and continues with the heavy guitars and synth riffs. The vocals here are processed to have a robotic sound as the music boils along heavily. The sounds contrast effectively. After 2 verses, a rousing guitar solo improvises over the heavy background riff, and soon the vocalists come back with their natural voices this time. Soon, an acoustic guitar calm everthing down and the vocals continue thick with a psychedelic haze over them. The music stays mellow now as synth accompanies the acoustic guitar until the heaviness suddenly comes back and and the track feels more immense and dark during the last minute.

"Closer to the Edge" is a shorter track with the synth providing all of the instrumentation and simple lyrics. Synth layers drive it forward with a drone like quality in the background and various melodic lines around it. "High Rise" starts with a throbbing drum, hand claps and layers of guitars as tension builds and the combined vocals begin. Things get heavier and thicker, approaching a stoner, dark metal sound, but against a fast beat. About half way through, the synths add power to the guitars and you get a thick sound. The sound is similar to Black Sabbath's "Sabotage" heaviness with the added synths. As things get more intense, Rachel's wordless vocals lend to the excitement of everything and then a sudden scary scream from Stephen lets you know he is into it also. This has an excellent retro, hard rock sound. "Pretty Little Lazies" starts off a bit softer, but the emotion is simply boiling under. Soon an acoustic riff comes in, the vocals are less intense here, but the shaking tambourine and symphonic synths remind you of that psychedelic feel again, as if it came straight from the hippie era. Halfway through, things speed up and an upbeat synth pushes the heavy background forward. A crazy guitar riff plays and then everything suddenly shuts down, and the music returns to its orginal sound, but with wordless vocals, continued acoustic guitar and smooth synths with their mellotron sound.

"Boogie Lover" establishes the slow boogie pattern with a low synth and Rachel singing solo this time, with a layer of haze over her vocals to keep it psychedelic. Guitars enter with their riffs, and then both vocalists sing as everything gets more powerful. This is one that you will be tempted to keep turning up louder and louder as the memorable riffs make you want to get your helmet that you keep around for head banging purposes, especially when the drums get wilder in the middle. "Licensed to Drive" begins with plucked guitars and mysterious synths as Stephen sings "Your spirit wheel burnin". Soon, tribal drums build tension up as synths swirl, and a sudden explosion of pounding guitar riff bring back both vocalists in a hard driving track with lot of heavy energy in the guitar and synth layers. "FD'72" closes out the album with a mid-Eastern inspired riff and a slower, bluesy tempo. Stephen's vocals are more pensive against the thumping drum and the lovely synth sound as the music becomes more emotional and desperate sounding, very Bowie-esque.

So, the trademark retro, hard rock sound the band is famous for continues in this album. The main difference here is that the tracks are, for the most part, much heavier and darker, but the psychedelic, 70's stoner vibe is still there. There are songs that have more driving force than before, but there are still enough dynamic moments that the music doesn't get into a stagnant or cliché format, it stays interesting throughout. I have always loved Black Mountain's sound, and it is good to hear that it still has the same vibe, but with an increased intensity. Those that loved the band in the past will continue to love their sound on this excellent album. Definitely also for lovers of stoner rock, psychedelic hard rock and the 70's retro sound.

TCat | 4/5 |


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