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Scale the Black Mountain


When I was in Montreal last month doing a story on the city’s music scene, a few people told me to check out Black Mountain, a west coast Canadian band that was doing great things. So when their self-titled CD showed up this week I tore into it and instantly liked what I heard.

In what I could only describe as psychedelic metal, Black Mountain’s music lies somewhere between Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull. The songs thrash just enough to the point when you find yourself twirling just at the moment when you think you should bang your head. That’s the beauty in Black Mountain’s sound – just when you ought to go one place, they take you in another related direction that’s removed just enough from the original place.

It’s everything ‘70s metal was with the added knowledge of 30 years of rock derivation and the assistance of electronic musical enhancements. And the pairing of songwriter Stephen McBean’s atmospheric, grandiose vocals and Amber Wells’ harmonious warble displays the genius Robert Plant could’ve achieved if he had brought female vocals into the fold (but then Zeppelin may have morphed in Fleetwood Mac and where would that have gotten us?!)

The music is at times dark, brooding and mysterious, like on Druganaut and Set Us Free. While things get a tad lighter and poppier on Modern Music or the slap-in-the-face No Satisfaction.

And, if it isn’t enough that Black Mountain has gotten a bunch of buzz in the indie scene, Coldplay enlisted them to open on their North American outing. So this small band, that was spawned out of Pink Mountaintops and Jerk with a Bomb, McBean’s two other musical incarnations (of which I really know nothing about), that is made up mostly of social workers (their day jobs) living, breathing and cavorting on the Vancouver art scene, is going to hit the big time.

It’s an odd pairing, methinks. Coldplay with its sensitive, thoughtful and emotional balladry (which rocks, just my opinion) and Black Mountain with, well, a 180-degree musical turn away from Chris Martin. In some circles, people might think it’s crazy. In my opinion, it’s sheer brilliance. In a way, this is Chris Martin’s way of telling everyone who called him a lofty sad sack that he really does rock.

While Black Mountain doesn’t officially come out in the U.S. for a couple of months, you can still buy it here because it’s been out in Canada since January.


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