Black Peaks - All That Divides (Cover Artwork)

Black Peaks

All That Divides (2018)

Rise Records

Yeah, yeah - I’m at it again. Another British band. It’s not that this is where my musical focus sits, it’s just that a lot of the other staffers are way closer to the US-based bands (metaphorically and geographically), so I’m working with what’s closest to me as well. However, in this instance, I’m absolutely fucking delighted that no-one else at PN has claimed the review for the Brighton 4-piece’s sophomore release.

For the uninitiated, Black Peaks are probably what would fall into the category of heavy progressive rock...but we’re far closer to Mastodon territory than Pink Floyd, for example. In fact, the guys found themselves supporting Mastodon (amongst others) on a string of dates during the cycle of first album ‘Statues’ after it garnered mainstream radio support as well as critical acclaim from the underground. No mean feat.

But back to the task at hand. How have they approached the follow-up? Well there’s still plenty of progginess, but not to the extent that it makes it a difficult listen by any means - more just an interesting listen. It doesn’t hurt that vocalist Will (Gardner) has just about the most impressive range of vocal styles of anyone to emerge from the heavy/alternative worlds in a very long time. We’ve got truly fragile, melodic passages, punctuated with throat-shredding metal screams and extending all the way to a Matt Bellamy-style falsetto at times. If that sounds mad, then that’s because it is - but at no point is it being deployed as a gimmick, or just because he can. Will clearly knows how to utilise the considerable tools at his disposal to maximum effect.

Musically, the scope is equally broad. It’s almost hard to believe that a band can pack so much diversity of style into 9 tracks, whilst still maintaining a sound that is so uniquely their own and even retaining a real sense of patience. Admittedly there are parts where you feel direct influences of other bands, but when a friend of mine asked me the classic ‘For Fans Of’ question, I ended up plumping for Mastodon, Deftones, Muse and Dillinger. Which in retrospect is probably too much of a headfuck to tell you anything about what the band actually sound like, but I stand by it.

Breaking it down, lead guitarist Joe Gosney has a couple of full-on Brent Hinds moments (the solo in Slow Seas, especially) and further than that, his work on both ‘Home’ and ‘Eternal Light’ could probably sit on Crack The Skye without people batting an eye. Bassist Dave Larkin (brought in to replace Andrew Gosden towards the end of 2017) has brought a real weight to the band; allowing the more delicate moments to have a sinister mysticism embroidered into the music (not entirely dissimilar to what Shavo does in SOAD), but also bringing a mellifluous rumble throughout. Which brings us to Liam Kearley. Man. What a drummer. Liam Kearley is a real firecracker of a player, and when the songs open up, then he really shows what he can do. He trots through the more basic passages when he needs to, but is like a rabid dog being unchained when the band hits their stride. Power, technicality and flair used in just the right proportions.

Without trying to pick apart each of the songs themselves too much (it would take forever and I don’t want to ruin the enjoyment for you folks), the record has a quite sombre feel to it for the main part. The track “Slow Seas” for example, tackles the European migrant crisis in much more of a heavy lamentation than a straightforward lambasting of the government(s) responsible. There’s a pathos to it which is maybe somewhat more difficult to evoke in heavier music as it’s often more predisposed to aggression – or maybe it’s just that I listen to a lot of straight ignorant hardcore…either way, it’s an impressive thing when done to this level of quality. The heaviness isn’t all of this nature, though. Some of the breakdowns are deployed to extraordinary effect (towards the end of “Midnight Sun” is a good example).

I don’t know if I can really find a great deal of fault with the record, I really can’t. It just does everything I want a heavy record to, I think. It’s novel, captivating, beautifully crafted, and when it wants to, it will really knock your head back. A tip of the cap to you, Black Peaks. I will be seeing you soon, whatever it takes.