Black Mountain Commune With Darkness at The Chapel


I go through phases where I don’t necessarily loose my faith in new Rock & Roll, but feel a bit disillusioned with it. I ask myself, “What can you show me that hasn’t been done better by (fill in the name of any heavy 70’s legends here)?” Whenever I get that fatalistic feeling, the most sure fire way to become re-enchanted with the genre is to get out and hear some live music.

The limitations of a home stereo, and neighborly goodwill, often prevent us from hearing this music as it was intended: pants pissingly loud, that is. It is only at decibel levels frowned upon by doctors and mothers everywhere that one can truly commune with the spirit of Rock. After my pilgrimage to The Chapel on Thursday, my faith has been restored. Like so many TV evangelists, Black Mountain and supporting act zZz laid a healing hand on my withered musical spirit.

To kick things off, zZz was anything but a snooze. The Dutch duo filled every cranny of The Chapel’s vaulted ceilings with their sleazy echo-laden vocals, keys, and drums. It wasn’t until well after they rocked our socks that we were informed that drummer/vocalist Björn Ottenheim was stomping his bass drum with a recently broken foot. Such a tangible display of the healing powers of music was almost as moving as zZz’s highly danceable tracks like “When I Come Home” from their latest release Juggernaut.

When the time came, Black Mountain was truly bat head soup for the metal lover’s soul. Looking around the crowd I don’t think I was the only one feeling reinvigorated by the darkness. There was a squad of ladies in front of me, and as they rocked out other audience members were whipped mercilessly with hair. Nobody seemed to mind too much though, as they recognized the involuntary convulsions of those possessed by the spirits that haunt Stephen McBean’s guitar effects, and Amber Webber’s vocals.

The interplay of McBean’s guitar and Jeremy Schmidt’s synthesizer on the band’s latest release IV has a wine and wafer level relationship, and it translates majestically to their live show. From the new wave energy of “Florian Saucer Attack” to the soulful psych of “Space To Bakersfield” the band drew on the rich heritage of Rock in all its shape shifting glory. After the band returned for their encore and closed the night out with a nearly 10 minute rendition of “Mothers of the Sun,” it may have been a spilled drink that made my boot stick to the floor, but it just as likely could have been a puddle of melted faces.

Words by Brian Ogden / Photos by Nate Chavez