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After a five-plus year hiatus, Vancouver rock outfit Black Mountain returns with their fourth album, the boldly named IV (yep, just Like Led Zeppelin & Black Sabbath). Considering that two significant rock bands have equally significant albums with the same name puts almost unnecessary pressure on this release. Naming the album IV was not accidentally. The band was clearly confident in the new material, which is their best since their hard-rock classic, In the Future.
The album opens with the eight-and-a-half minute long monster, “Mothers of the Son”. This song builds layers of synths on top of synths while perfectly marrying the dual vocals of Amber Webber and Stephen McBean. The following track, “Florian Saucer Attack”, helps to continue to set the stage for this release. Webber takes lead in one of the albums more trippy songs. The synths set a serious psychedelic mood that continues throughout the album.
While there is a bit of a familiarity with the these two tracks, IV also represents Black Mountain’s most experimental album to date. That is not to say they have fully reinvented their sound, but they definitely have evolved it. There is more space and more texture throughout, and the album is much more diverse than past efforts. “Defector“, for instance, opens with a 70s synth chord and has more of a pop melody, especially when Webber joins in for the refrain. In contrast, “(Over and Over) the Chain” is more of a space-rock ballad with elements of progressive rock. This is another big song that progresses and thickens as it unfolds over eight-and-half minutes.
Black Mountain has always had an undercutting of folk mixed in with the rock and roll and that is especially evident on “Line Them All UP”, a haunting rock ballad with perfect harmonies. Similar slow jam, “Crucify Me”, uses space to highlight the lyrics and voices of the two leads, and it might be Black Mountain’s most introspective (and emotively crippling) song to date. That is not to say that the album lacks muscle, as guitar heavy “Constellation” is bluesy and raw.
The album is neatly bookended with another lengthy track, “Space to Backersfield”. This slow burner ups the ante with each chord progression, giving us a reminder of what Black Mountain once was and still is – one of this generation’s great rock bands.
Black Mountain‘s IV finds the band in great form. They still play close homepage to the rock and roll of their forebearers that clearly inspired their work (and the title) by making an authentic album that delivers in sound and spirit. Yet they’ve carved out a much broader spectrum in sound and space, leaving us tantalized of what is to come.
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