[sic] Magazine

Black Mountain – Year Zero Original Soundtrack

Soundtracks are as notoriously difficult to appraise as best-ofs. Do you take the material entirely out of context or try to frame it within a film for which you’ve only seen the (extremely rad) trailer? How therefore to respond to the embedding of suspect sound bites? And, in this case, what to make of the cut-and-paste nature of the recording artist’s blending of the familiar with new commissions?

Add to that the post-apocalyptic surf content of the flick in question, not to mention Black Mountain ‘s reputation as riff monsters, and you have yourself a series of delicious conundrums. How then does one set about soundtracking lovingly shot 16mm images of beach bodies in varying states of wave confrontation and/or mucking about in the dunes with high-power engines all set against the backdrop of a post-everything landscape?

Well, aside from segueing certain tracks into one another with sounds of the ocean, it turns out that first of all you draft in some of your boldest cuts from the back catalogue in order to steady the ship. As such, it is with the usual awestruck glee that we encounter afresh the sometimes-heavy psyche-rock titan “Tyrants” from the band’s stellar In The Future LP – so too a 13-minute version of the outsider epic “Bright Lights” from the same album. Similarly welcome and just as muscular, they’ll be few lamenting the inclusion of the psyche-metal mayhem that is the title track from the band’s last outing Wilderness Heart , nor the relatively happy-go-lucky “Modern Music” from their early debut.

All in all then a suitably earth-shattering template to soundtrack the lives of these Armageddon survivors, but understandably what you really wanna know about are the five new tracks, one of which can immediately be written off as two minutes of incidental music for some wacko cult recruitment video, such is the slightly sinister mood of the vaguely spiritual “Embrace Euphoria”.

Better is the glassy eyed “Phosphorescent Waves”, which simmers on slow-time keys and a light dusting of sci-fi synth FX and drone. There’s no riffing to be found here and Amber Webber exploits the minimal structure with her unique vocal quiver before the track closes amid some abstract rhetoric presumably ripped from the narrator’s script.

Coasting into life on matt-finish synth arpeggios underneath main Mountaineer Stephen McBean ‘s digitally tampered vocal, “In Sequence” is lent a cinematic quality when its beat kicks in evoking some trippy on-foot chase sequence as the camera may or may not pan in and out in fast artistic swoops.

More typical of the band, the disorientating “Mary Lou” duly sets its guitars to stun, flexing choice power chords and wailing solos over a driving bassline that summons the spirit of desert stoners Kyuss . Closing the curtain, the vintage sounding “Breathe” is a fizzy, drifting little psychedelic outro that seems to rake the skies with searching guitar shards, ultimately finding nothing but ebbing percussion repeats.

Black Mountain have followed the Year Zero brief to the letter, doing their absolute best to keep true to themselves as well as providing a compatible score. One can’t help but feel nevertheless that an opportunity has perhaps been missed to record fresh riffs for such a striking, albeit niche premise. All the same, you can’t help but admire the strength of the older cuts here displayed. They’ve certainly all stood the test of time – even in the face of apocalypse.

Advised downloads: “Mary Lou” and “Phosphorescent Waves”.

~The Year Zero Original Soundtrack is released on vinyl and digital formats on April 2nd 2012 on Jagjaguwar .~

[sic] review: Wilderness Heart

Black Mountain @ myspace