Black Mountain

The first great record of 2008 has arrived. From the opening monster riff of Stormy High, prepare to be taken on a power ride that few bands can seem to muster these days. Second track, Angels, has the end of album flourishes that most bands would hold back for the final number, but here it only serves to get things started. This album will kick down the door and roar through your house like a hoard of vikings.

The cover artwork might suggest hocus-pocus and a fuzzy 70's psychedelia, but this is certainly not a nostalgic wander through riffs-gone-by. Where Wolfmother's tongues seem to remain firmly in cheek, Black Mountain have no air of pastiche and treat the music with the respect it deserves.

While 2005's Black Mountain showed hints of what this band were capable of, those hints were quickly matched by a wide variety of side projects - from the looser sound of Pink Mountaintops, through Matt Camarind's Blood Meridian and most recently with Amber Webber's Lightning Dust. Stephen McBean reconvened Black Mountain to record a follow up in 2006, but their various commitments led to an abortive start. Once the schedules cleared out however, the band knuckled down for a solid stint and laid down a burst of material in a matter of weeks. Surprising, as this is a record that seems so coherent and focussed you would assume a masterpiece level build-up was involved.

Their awesome live shows recently introduced the new tracks, showing this to be an album of raw power. A huge guitar sound, monster drums (most epic on the blistering finale of Tyrants) and only a keyboard to add a few extra flourishes to tracks like Wucan. Amber Webber's back up vocals add a further dimension, regularly jostling for prime position and taking centre stage on a couple of album highlights, such as the rumbling Queens Will Play.

The album scores so highly due to it's cohesiveness as a single piece of work, that you rarely feel like breaking up. In the days of the free mp3 that in itself is a rarity, but here it adds another dimension to all the songs, as you know you're never far away from a monster rock-out. There's tension here and the great range of highs and lows add light and dark, packing out this superb album. There's barely a bum note here, from the sweeping epic ups-and-downs of Tyrants to the acoustic subtlety of Stay Free. Even noodle-free 17 minute epic Bright Lights has it's five star moments.

The record has already taken a hammering over the last few weeks, but shows no sign of tiredness and I can see this one sitting in the favourites for the long haul.


Coming to an eardrum near you: January 21st 2008
There's a limited edition available while stocks last, with a second disc of 3 bonus non-album tracks. Do it.