In the last 30 years, there have been dark days in the realm of rock and roll. Amongst the shadows, there lurked agents of revolution, seeking to undo its glory. There are many names for such fiends, each with its own strike in time. Some say grunge; others cry alternative; and, lest we forget the seemingly innocent “post” that thought to take its place before rock and roll in its title?
But amongst the darkness there is a guild of light, a white hot flame that burns its foes. but they are few and their enemies many. Amongst the ranks of these torch bearers you will find Black Mountain.
This Vancouver born rock outfit came together around 2003, a time when a waning lull in the local music scene was finally coming to an end. “When we first started out, there was an explosion of creative people and new venues,” says Stephen McBean, vocalist and guitarist for the band. It was within the fires of these explosions that Black Mountain honed their sound.
Black Mountain offer all that rock and roll was meant to give: be it carving mountain curves on your motorbike, or those of your girl between the sheets, these guys will make the journey all the sweeter. Big, groovy and atmospheric, Black Mountain has a white knuckle grip on the fundamentals of rock and roll, offering an autonomy of influence ranging all the way from Hawkwind to The Velvet Underground. Vast, spacey synth, blues-born shreddage and perfectly executed vocal work — you’d be hard pressed to find a more coherent and catchy combination of so many different aspects of rock and roll.
After two years of slaying shows and DIY demos, Black Mountain signed with Jagjaguwar to release their self-titled debut. A few years later, after much touring and the great reception of their first album, they released a follow-up record, In the Future, which was heavily acclaimed in the skate and snowboard communities. Some of the tracks off In the Future had even been used in some video parts, most notably Thanks Brain’s, Thats it Thats All and Nike’s Debacle.
“I grew up skateboarding, watching old Santa Cruz videos and stuff,” confirms McBean. “I remember the first time me and my friends heard Dinosaur Jr., it was amazing! It makes me feel happy to be a part of the history of this stuff, now.”
After In the Future, the band packed up and ventured down the coast to Seattle and then on to California to record their third release, Wilderness Heart. “It was an opportunity to try something new. We had a chance to have a producer, so, you know, we wanted to give it a try and see where it goes.” Wilderness Heart is a clearer, more precise strike of what the group has to offer. Delving deeper into more of an early metal influence with tracks like “Let Spirits Ride,” they also explore folkier realms, apparent in “Radiant Hearts” and “Sadie,” thus giving the album a perfect temperance.
In April of this year, Black Mountain released the soundtrack for Globe Surfs movie, Year Zero. The movie takes place in a post apocalyptic world where surfing has survived the nuclear fallout. And who better to offer up an auditory acid trip than Vancouver’s own? The soundtrack consists of some previously recorded tracks, along with some new instant classics.
Beyond all that Black Mountain has done, they have not lost sight of carrying the torch further on up the pass. “We have only been to Brazil once. We still haven’t toured Japan. I dunno, it would be cool to play Russia,” McBean says with a laugh. It is clear that Black Mountain is still full of steam, so on those dark days when all is bleak and every song you hear makes you feel like you are in a Bud Light commercial, all you have to do is look to the west and listen for the thunder coming down from Black Mountain.
Catch Black Mountain at the Republik (Calgary) on August 22 and at the Starlite Room (Edmonton) on August 23.
By Joe Ramirez
Photo: Ryan Walter Wagner