We really loved (yes, loved) the sleaze of that first Pink Mountaintops (Axis Of Evol, was just OK), dig us some Blood Meridian (who have a new album), enjoy Lightning Dust, and were level-headed fans of the swaggering (sax on the Vancouver street) self-titled Black Mountain debut, but In The Future notches it all into some darker, most ecstatic territory. It feels like they’re more into taking their time, letting things unfold. Not just in the monumental, 17-minute song-that-eats-like-a-meal, “Bright Lights” and its murky, holy-seeming Brightblack Morning Light undertow (to huge sweet-leaf guitar storm). The entire approach feels more wild, woolly, and lone-prairie free.
From the opening tsunami roar of “Stormy High” (appropriately named, both for the storm and stoned part) and blistering crescendo of “Tyrants” to the Amber Webber-piloted “Night Walks,” the album balances a restlessness with something incredibly soothing. “Night Walks” ends the ten-song collection on a sleepy late-night ramble — “And the moon leaves me just enough like to see / and my shadow my own company / and it moves just like me / and it walks just like me” — and though it sounds nothing like it, “Night Walks” made us think of “Nightswimming,” for so many other reasons than the “night” in the title. Its final synth-and-ambiance swirls and sighs feels like church for outlaw nonbelievers, creating this open-ended exit after all the fire and brimstone(d). And it’s not even the best track.
One of the more common criticisms of Black Mountain is that they’re derivative of Sabbath and various doomy stoner rockers and classic stuff, etc. We don’t deny that to a degree, but among the bands aping that sound (the Sword, anyone?), they add more than enough of their own burnt flavor. It’s some of the most gothic shit coming out of indie rock. Particularly on “Queens Will Play,” where Stephen takes a back seat and Amber delivers freaky lines like “blood sprawls across the walls.” Makes us want to smoke up in a graveyard. Or, well, at least watch a ’70s horror flick.
Meanwhile the song before it, “Stay Free,” is a falsetto jangle about beautiful ponies. Well, in part. It’s really about stepping outside of shit awhile, hiding with your loved one below the stairs (“There comes a time when you / When you ought to know / There comes a time to quit / To quit all that running”). It’s so fragile and pretty — a total wisp of ramblin’ heartache — it could be in a Spider-Man movie. Oh, wait.
The album’s really catchy, too. There are these moments in “Wild Wind,” the way Stephen enunciates, that make us think of Radiohead’s “Creep.” And big ups to Jeremy Schmidt, whose swampy, inviting synth and organ is fantastic. That’s a big part of what sets them apart from popular stoner rock bands (Queens Of The Stone Age, Woflmother) who are just really glossy lite-metal. The riffs alternate between meaty (“Stormy High”) and trippy (“Wucan”) and Royal Trux (“Evil Ways”). Yeah, maybe they’re not always incredibly original, but damn if this band is not cool. Speaking of which, you guys (and gal) wanna hang out?
In The Future is out 1/22 on Jagjaguwar.