Tuesday, February 16, 2010
#17 Sabbath meets Floyd in Black Mountain
Vancouver BC is quickly becoming the kind of place for music that San Francisco was famous for in the late 60's. Obviously not in the same vein, but in terms of the amount of talent then sure. One of the cities biggest acts lately is Black Mountain. Formed in 2004, they are just a part of the Black Mountain Army, a group artistic collective of mostly musicians, from Vancouver's East end. Most of Black Mountain participate in a number of other band's as well including: Pink Mountaintops, The Black Halo's, Jerk With A Bomb, and more then a half dozen other projects. Black Mountain itself consists of Stephen McBean (guitar, vocals), Amber Webber (vocals), Matt Camirand (bass), Jeremy Schmidt (keyboards) and Joshua Wells (drums). For the majority of their career, most of the band have also worked day jobs at the outreach center 'Insite' in East Van. When asked about their involvement with Insite, the band replied that they wanted to continue the work they were doing there to help people with drug addiction and mental illness and that working there also keeps them grounded as they begin to become more famous.
The music that comes out of Black mountain is all shades of blue and black. Metal intertwines perfectly with Blues and Psychedelic Rock like ingredients in some complex potion being stirred up by magicians on a hilltop during a thunderstorm. At times their sound can be very experimental. At others, it ranges somewhere between progressive rock, Blues Rock and Metal. Amber Webber's vocals sound like a darker, more mystical version of Grace Slick and her vocals perfectly coexist with those of Stephen McBean's. The Rhythm section are hard and thunderous with just the right amount of funk on tracks like 'Druganaut' and are reminiscent of the back bone of Led Zeppelin created by John Paul Jones and John Bonham. The guitar work in Black Mountain done by Stephen McBean is phenomenal and influences can be felt in his work from all over music. He seems just as adept in more slow, folk rock tunes like 'Stay Free' as he is in harder edge tracks like 'No Satisfaction' which sounds a bit like a cross between the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground with McBean masterfully channeling Lou Reed's murky vocal tone.
Their music doesn't really lend itself to singles or hit tracks but the albums themselves are solid gold for those times when you want to throw on a record and hear a complete piece of work. I actually enjoy that they make records for people who enjoy records, not just crafting an album around one track they hope to score big with a flashy music video. This is a tight five piece band and I was very pleasantly surprised when they proved just as talented live as they do on record. I saw them live at the Pemberton Festival in 2008 and while the set seemed a little rushed, they managed to perform 'In The Future' almost in its entirety. Songs like “Stormy High” and “Angels” were definitely the highlights of that set for me as McBean and crew rocked the side stage better then almost every other act to hit that stage during the course of the festival.
-In 2005, the band opened for Coldplay on their Twisted Logic Tour for three weeks.
-The band has really started taking off after the media exposure they got for 'Stay Free' appearing on the Spider Man 3 soundtrack.
-During a show in Oklahoma City in 2005, the band realized the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne was in the crowd. Impressed by what he saw, Coyne invited the band to crash at his house. "In the morning, we looked outside, and Wayne had all these bubble machines going," says Amber Webber, "He gave us one, and we used it on tour."
My fave album so far is 'In The Future' (2008). This album breaks free from industry patterns and restraint with every track. Critic Adam Moerder commented, “The eight-minute ‘Tyrants,’ sounds like a Middle Earth baptism by fire.” "In The Future also features the Pink Floyd homage “Wild Wind". This record is another fine example of what I would call a 'Rainy day album'. One of the many shining moments on the album comes in the form of “Evil Ways,”a very fun jazzy song that is one of my faves of the album. I highly recommend this record it is another great example of the fantastic talent we have in BC these days.
Dig this video of 'Set Us Free' and see what is so awesome about Black Mountain.