[CD review] Black Mountain

Black Mountain's second record dives right in, stacking all the chugging guitar and glossy keyboards that can fit into “Stormy High,” a song about witches and other reliable sources of evil. The title In the Future is ironic, considering how painstakingly Black Mountain look back to the '60s and '70s for inspiration. Witness: Sabbath's riffs, Pink Floyd's heady atmosphere and otherworldly reach, Zeppelin's artful bombast and Dungeons N Dragons-worthy lyrics, Yes' muscled prog digressions. Folk and pop sneak in, too, often making a pleasant respite from so many familiar earmarks.

At last following up Black Mountain's beloved self-titled debut, Stephen McBean leads his well-oiled outfit through terrain both rugged and slippery, often within the same song. “Tyrants” slips from throttling stoner-psych to wavering folk, and “Wucan,” a duet with percussionist Amber Webber, is set to a hypnotic keyboard progression that urges the band into frazzled jam territory. Webber sings lead on “Queens Will Play,” which also descends into keys-fluttered noodling, this time ripe with heavenly backing vocals and dirty guitar.

McBean's airy falsetto on “Stay Free” is sweet, but it's hard to stomach the lyrics of the “Hey Joe”-gone-pop “Angels”: “C'mon, lay your halo down/Lady, lady, don't let your worries fleet.” Meanwhile, “Evil Ways” (“You've got to change your evil ways”) follows the same trajectory as nearly every song here. “Wild Wind” is a nice slice of dreamy pop that sadly lasts less than two minutes, whereas the 17-minute “Bright Lights” winds up in spooky instrumental territory that recalls Fripp N Eno at a midnight mass before a thick thread of bass resurrects the rock.

There's no denying Black Mountain's mighty rapture or deep impact, but listeners will have to reconcile themselves with the band's over-the-top earnestness to enjoy In the Future.

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