Somewhat of a comeback album, Canadian band Black Mountain are a genre unto themselves on IV. Not that the psych / stoner rockers were on hiatus, but it has been a solid five years since their last LP.
For avid fans the wait must have been excruciating but for those who remained patient and those new to the band, IV represents an exquisite genre mash-up of heavy riffs, psych fuzz, soft pop tones, and alternative delights.
Effectively the culmination of all their albums to date, IV sees Black Mountain take off into more expansive psychedelic territory.
You’ll hear everything on IV including incredibly funky riffs and bass lines, piano, synths, innumerable percussion instruments, and lyrical styles that change subtlety to reflect the diversity of each track; ranging from psych, to pop, to punk.
Even the most entry-level music fan can hear Black Mountain harking back to the late 70’s and 80’s when rock bands were slicking up and smoothing out their music with pulsing electronics and moody synths.
The first half of the album in particular takes this path; Defector, You Can Dream, and Constellations all trekking in some delicious soundscapes perfect for night-time driving. However, they’re a hard band to narrow down.
You could make reference to acts like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, but also David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen, and furthermore a few popular psych rocks bands of today. Florian Saucer Attack is like a mix of King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard’s wacky energy and Savages‘ punky aggression.
Black Mountain have never been afraid to record a lengthy track and nothing changes on this occasion, with opener Mothers of the Sun and closer Space to Bakersfield combining for almost twenty minutes to give the album an overtly epic feel.
For all the energy and full-on presence of much of the album, there are moments it ducks its head to become quite haunting, dialling everything down to a murmur here, an electronic warble there, and really serves to add some atmosphere to the hard edge of the rock that surrounds the quiet.
Another of the long tracks, (Over and Over) The Chain is such a fine example. It whispers to you, dirge like, before ratcheting up the tension with a simple guitar line, eventually giving way for vocalists Amber Webber and Stephen Gordon McBean to do their stellar work.
Cemetery Breeding is perhaps the most conventional rock n’ roll track on the record, with some sweet synth work thrown in. On this one, the rhythm speaks of fun while lyrically it talks of decidedly darker things, (suicide and fucking in a graveyard, that kind of thing) but ultimately Bean’s delivery incites some old fashioned, zoned-out head nodding.
The second half of IV pleases the most, where it may lack the bursts of energy that the early tracks possess but it seems to dig deeper with some really absorbing composition. Crucify Me is another perfectly crafted rock ballad that builds, holds, and releases.
Space to Bakersfield signs off in the most “end credits” way possible. Meandering and floating with a repeated lyric, it clocks in at 9 minutes.
Rather than sounding like they’ve run out of energy or ideas, it’s as if Black Mountain are simply getting too far ahead to hear anymore, leaving you with a sense that they’ve entered a realm you can’t follow into. However, there’s an assuredness they’ll be back with even more material before too long.
With such a long layoff you’d be expecting a pretty special album and Black Mountain do deliver a genuinely interesting record that will manage to surprise you without betraying itself.
If you’re into this type of music at all, it hits all the frenetic highs and morbid lows you could want.