Review and photography by John Bentley

Black Mountain at Leeds

As a fan of their previous three albums. I’ve really been looking forward to this gig and, fortunately, it turns out to be a fabulous evening. Canada’s Black Mountain are in Leeds for a rare UK appearance to promote their new, fourth, long-player.

Opening act Guy Blakeslee is impressive and has real stage presence. The intense and expressive singer-songwriter has a voice with a Buckley-esque range and pulls-off some beautiful, often flamenco-inspired, guitar playing, spreading his fingers claw-like over the fretboard. He finishes with an otherworldly acapella performance, perched on one leg and waving his three free limbs, with tambourines attached to a wrist and an ankle.

Guy Blakeslee at Leeds

Formed by guitarist Stephen McBean in 2004, Black Mountain has remained a cohesive five piece band, progressing their musical ideas over four albums to date. 2005’s debut album caused quite a stir, with Black Sabbath-inspired rock riffs set within catchy, but laid-back, song structures. Second album, 2008’s ‘In the Future’, moved the band in a more doomy and prog-rock direction and produced some classics in the Black Mountain catalogue, such as ‘Tyrants’ and ‘Wucan’, which are performed tonight.

Black Mountain at Leeds

Apart from energetic drummer Joshua Wells, who is spot-lit, the band is shrouded in shadow on stage, which seems to suit their often foreboding music. The gig kicks-off with the couple of songs that open the new album (entitled ‘IV’), ‘Mothers of the Sun’ and ‘Florian Saucer Attack’ – yes it’s a heavy and trippy affair. Then it’s into more familiar song territory, with the stomping ‘Stormy High’ and the stoner rock of ‘Druganaut’. Jeremy Schmidt’s keyboards have become more important in the band’s sound since the debut album, as we see on new album tracks like ‘Cemetery Breeding’, which sounds symphonic at times, while on ‘You Can Dream’ there is a pulsating synth.

Black Mountain at Leeds

Half the set showcases the new album, but there’s a good selection of old favourites that any Black Mountain fan would want to hear, cleverly interwoven with the new material. In particular, ‘Tyrants’ is an epic classic, flawlessly performed and making good use of the twin vocals of McBean and Amber Webber.

Black Mountain at Leeds

The main set ends appropriately with the song that closes the new album, ‘Space to Bakersfield’. It features keyboard sounds reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ era and finishes with a guitar freakout inspired by Funkadelic’s ‘Maggot Brain’. Quite a combination, but it works well.

Black Mountain at Leeds

The encore begins with Schmidt alone on stage building-up another Floydian soundscape for new song ‘(Over and Over) The Chain’. The other band members drift back onto the stage as the song builds to a cacophonous conclusion. Black Mountain finish triumphantly with contrasting debut album song, the riffy ‘Don’t Run Our Hearts Around’. A stunning show from a tremendously talented band.

Black Mountain at Leeds

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