First off, I would like to state that even though Black Mountain’s self-titled album has been out for nearly half a year, it’s still worthy of our, and your, attention. Second, I think it’s important to mention that in that time, the band has gone on to tour with one of the biggest bands in the world, Coldplay. Third, as a result of this tour, chances are this is one of the last reviews you’ll read before they end up getting a lot bigger, perhaps even to the level of a Queens of the Stone Age or, possibly yet less likely, a White Stripes. And lastly, whether this review comes late, the band gets too huge for their own good or we never hear from them again, this album is absolutely amazing and will remain that way for years to come.
Black Mountain is an epic, dragon-slaying, fire-summoning, thunder-commanding, black magic wielding rock `n’ roll band. It’s very likely that you’ll hear Satanic verses when you play their record backwards. Acid trips probably seem much cooler when you listen to their music. And they might even get you laid. But I don’t want to promise anything that I can’t back up, here. They do rock hard, though, there’s no disputing that. Melding the best of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones and even the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, Black Mountain takes psychedelic rock to a stellar new level of badass.
The Sabbath influence is ever apparent, especially on a beastly rocker like “Don’t Run Our Hearts Around.” The guitar is pure Iommi, though Stephen McBean’s vocals are deeper and more “American” sounding than that Osbourne fellow. The best songs result, however, when Black Mountain leans more heavily on their other influences than on their knowledge of Paranoid. Opener “Modern Music,” for instance puts their opinions of corporate music-making on the table, as the group sings in wobbly unison, like a chorus of Jim Carrolls, “We can’t stand your modern music/we feel afflicted.”
First single “Druganaut” is a hip-swinging, funkafied take on stoner rock, an instant classic. Amber Webber adds her Thunder Goddess personality to this song, among others, sounding like a mighty, yet stone cold force. Yet few songs are as fun and exciting as “No Satisfaction,” a clear Stones homage in title and lyrics. The best moment comes during the chorus, when McBean sings “Everybody likes to clang bells around” over a bed of tambourine and hand percussion. The band indulges into their “Stairway” yearnings a bit on the sprawling “Set Us Free,” a song less concerned with Celtic mythology than a sobering desire for peace and love in a needlessly violent world.
The band takes more potshots at the American Idol ideal in “No Hits,” proclaiming “lemme holler against the pop star dream” over a krautrock groove. And the decidedly anti-war “Faulty Times” is reminiscent of The Velvet Underground’s “Murder Mystery,” in its odd, late night psychedelic vibe.
Black Mountain displays a lot of influences on one record, which will be particularly enticing to all of the garage rock fans out there. But as we’ve had some time to let this album stew, it slowly becomes apparent that Black Mountain’s catalytic conversion of their classic rock roots into a something new and unique is what makes them so exciting. Black Mountain is in for bigger and better things. But we’ll keep this our little secret as long as we can.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.