Black Mountain a mezmorizing journey

Published 6:17 pm Saturday, February 11, 2012

Many times in our newsroom, conversations will devolve into silly discussions of music, only to re-evolve into serious discussions, stuffed with little known facts and opinions.

From this has come a continuing new feature that will see reporter Jason Schoonover and photographer Eric Johnson challenging each other to listen to something outside their music comfort zone.

This week Eric reviews “In The Future,” by Black Mountain.

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I’ll admit, my musical taste is narrowly defined and constricted. It took me forever to get out of my hair metal constraints (I just can’t quit you Def Leppard) for example.

Simply put, it’s a difficult mountain to climb if you’re going to turn me on to something new, unless that mountain is Black Mountain.

It’s unfortunate to admit sometimes that I’m as constrained as I am, because I was absolutely oblivious to this band and embarrassingly enough, my first listen was through the band’s second studio release,

“In The Future,” had me thinking I was listening to an obscure band from the 1970s I had never heard of. The album was released in 2005.

Let’s be honest, the ‘70s weren’t the most unique of times musically in that many of the bands and acts sounded like each other.

It certainly didn’t help when I heard singer Amber Webber, who could easily be mistaken as a young Grace Slick. An unbelievable voice, Webber haunts the backgrounds on many of the tracks, complimenting guitarist/vocalist Stephen McBean who stands out as a storyteller.

Black Mountain has a creepy vibe woven throughout, but that’s not a dig. “Stormy High,” the album’s opening track, serves almost as a warning for what’s coming and you quickly find out you want to travel unknown paths.

“In The Future,” is a road play. My first listen came as I was traveling down Interstate 90, and this album was a near perfect companion to the drive.

This is a band who probably doesn’t play that many big stages, but is probably content staying on the small stage. Their sound fits smaller, more intimate venues. You really want to stay close to their music.

 Dig it

If it sounds like I’m crushing on Webber, it’s because I am. I’m a sucker for female vocals in rock acts, and Webber is one of the most amazing I’ve heard.

Webber absolutely shines on “Queens Will Play.” As she takes you through the song, her voice pleads for you to listen, especially with the lyrics: “Demons may be hiding in our shadows.”

Oddly, and I don’t want to diminish her talents here, Webber is at her best backing McBean because she adds such depth. Maybe the best example of this is on the song, “Angels.”

Her voice dances in subtly behind McBean becoming more noticeable as the song goes on and it adds the already mentioned depth to the dreamy delivery McBean weaves.

And really that’s just a small part of what makes this album and band work. Everything — from the writing, to the vocal interaction between Webber and McBean — to the keyboards of Josh Wells, just works. You rarely feel like you’re being tripped up by unnecessary additions.

 Didn’t dig it

When was the last time I had to look for something I didn’t like in an act?

It’s been a long time since I’ve really been this taken by band where I had to dig for something to complain about.

I suppose if I were to pick at something, it’s the song “Bright Lights.” The song stretches for a whopping 16 minutes, 41 seconds, and really that’s probably a bit long. There’s nothing really terrible about it, but it drags at times and introduces several points they could have ended the song.

You’re probably not going to skip it, but you’re attention is going to wane and drift when the rest of the tracks chain your attention.

 Key track

Now it sounds like I’m obsessing a little, but “Queens Will Play,” is the stand-out song many probably wouldn’t pick.

It stands out because it’s simple, soft but powerful. It acts like a mid-point anchor. Generally speaking, songs at an album’s midpoint tend to be weaker, but here Black Mountain wants to make sure they still have you.

 Final verdict

Honestly? I was prepared not to like Black Mountain. It’s generally not my kind of music

Even on first listen, I kept waiting for “that song” to come. That song that would affirm for me that yes, indeed, I don’t like this song.

Since myself and Jason Schoonover started this column, nothing we’ve listened to so far has really been taken by the other. We’ve been able to admit talent, but never really bought into the other’s style of music — until now.

I’m on the road a lot and I think this album will be traveling with me. From a guy who can’t seem to let go of the age of Skid Row, Black Mountain comes highly recommended.