by Christine Leonard
Hovering over your metropolis like a sleek black leviathan, Destroyer is but the latest vehicle of deliverance for Vancouver space rockers Black Mountain. Armed with digitized pop tentacles and pulsating with vintage video game vibes, the time-travelling album harvests riffs and rhythms from across decades and devices. Customarily nonchalant about their earth-quaking creations, founding guitarist/lead vocalist Stephen McBean and lynchpin/keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt, have always gravitated towards generating deadly sonic vortexes that defy chronological classification.
“We’re definitely in tune with our aesthetic pasts. I guess that’s pretty evident, just from what our preoccupations are,” say Schmidt of the new album’s retro-tronic soundscape. “I feel like the past is something that’s always revealing itself. Even though it seems like it’s all behind us, variations of it seem to be revealing themselves in the present and continuing to do so in the future all the time. So, to me it’s like the past is an ongoing project.”
Crashing into mid-life with phasing synths set to stun, Schmidt and McBean hit the virtual reset button following the appearance of the band’s previous full-length release, IV (2016), leaving them alone in the cockpit for the first time in years. Approaching an age when a man’s thoughts might run to HRT and hot rods, the duo fixed upon the title Destroyer, a nod to the discontinued single-run 1985 Dodge testosterone factory on wheels.
“Steve is actually a new driver. He recently learned how to drive, so that kind of informed a couple of the ideas in an off-handed, casual way.”
The “Boogie Lover” persona that flows from McBean’s newfound sense of freedom comes through loud and clear on new tracks such as the easy ridin’ “Future Shade,” the power mongering “Horns Arising” and the Manson-child recruitment anthem “Pretty Little Lazies.” Pieced together between their coastal outposts in LA and Vancouver, the resulting production carries the weight of Black Mountain’s ample experience and a burning thirst for untested waters.
“To me the results sound like a progression,” Schmidt says. “The record fits well within the canon of everything else we’ve done. It seems similar enough to what we’ve done in the past to sound like a Black Mountain record and different enough that it sounds new.”
Determined to repopulate their psychedelic utopia with a fresh crew of supporting players, the long-time friends opened the studio pod bay doors to a brave new world of artistic possibilities on Destroyer.
“We’ve always liked the balance of female and male vocals. It adds a different kind of narrative and it creates a dynamic which I think is very appealing and very much a part of the band,” he continues. “One could say our ‘happy place’ is where the organic meets the electronic. It’s kind of like this yin and yang thing where the two sort of egg each other on. Blending artifice and things that people regard as being more organic has always been something of interest to me and the band. In a lot of ways, it’s the nucleus of our sound.”
Atomic poet/vocalist/keyboardist Rachel Fannan (Only You, Sleepy Sun), alt-metal drummer Adam Bulgasem (Almost is Nothing, Dommengang, Soft Kill) and bassist Arjan Miranda complete Black Mountain’s live invasion force. After a decade and a half as an insular entity, the influx of new contributors to their recording sessions has brought vital energy to Black Mountain’s monolithic stage presence.
“Stepping back and looking at the album, it’s obviously different than you imagined it might have been from the beginning,” Schmidt says. “Live we’re pretty true to the album, but we leave room in the recording, so we have the freedom to change things up. There’s always some headroom to interpret things as they start to take on a different life on stage. When we approach performing stuff it’s almost like we just listened to the record and thought ‘Okay, let’s be the best Black Mountain cover band we can be!’ Just kidding.”
The refueled Black Mountain will cut a modest swath of destruction through Canada and the US this September. Keep your eyes on the skies as they make contact with Black Mountain Army converts at sightings scheduled for touchdown from British Columbia to Manitoba.
Black Mountain performs Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Vogue Theatre (Vancouver), Sunday, Sept. 15 at Distrikt (Victoria), Tuesday, Sept. 17 at the Starlite Room (Edmonton) and Wednesday, Sept. 18 at Commonwealth (Calgary)Black Mountain, Destroyer, Westward Festival