By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — One of the leading lights of the neo-psych movement since the turn of the millennium, Vancouver-based quintet Black Mountain brings songs from its powerful latest album IV to the Chapel in San Francisco Thursday night.
Founder and guitarist Stephen McBean already had over two decades of experience playing with a variety of Canadian punk and alternative bands when he and longtime collaborating drummer Josh Wells came up with the song “Black Mountain” in 2004 and decided to start a new group named after the song. The pair drew singer Amber Webber, bassist Matt Camirand and keyboard player Jeremy Schmidt into their orbit.
Black Mountain quickly recorded the band’s 2005 eponymous debut that mixed McBean and Webber’s intertwining vocal harmonies with the hypnotic approach of modern psych contemporaries like the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Black Angels and heavy guitar riffs that owed equal allegiance to Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer. That first album garnered glowing reviews and garnered the attention of Coldplay, who invited the band to open for them on a leg of their U.S. arena tour.
It would take three years before the band resurfaced with its sophomore effort In the Future in 2008 that brought in more keyboard orchestrations from Schmidt (leaning heavily on ’70s style synth, organ and mellotron sounds favored by Yes and early King Crimson) balanced by nods to Crazy Horse-era Neil Young and the more rural, acoustic end of Zeppelin’s sonic spectrum. That album and its sequel — 2010’s Wilderness Heart — were both nominated for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize.
McBean and other members of the band would also occupy themselves with other projects — he also leads his long-running experimental rock project Pink Mountaintops and would found the hardcore punk act Obliterations after moving to Los Angeles, while Schmidt has done all-synthesizer soundtrack work as Sinoia Caves; Webber and Wells have their own side project Lightning Dust.
After an extended break, Black Mountain returned last year with IV, another epic exploration of vintage sounds that takes the band’s past influences and adds new detours into new-wave grooves (the Devo-esque “Florian Saucer Attack”) and droning minimalism (“Mothers of the Sun”). The band headlined a spotlight pre-party show at last year’s psych and metal focused Psycho Las Vegas festival and toured to promote the album extensively. The group comes back to San Francisco Thursday night to perform at the Chapel in San Francisco’s Mission District. Dutch keyboard/drum duo zZz plays songs from its propulsive, synth-powered 2015 album Juggernaut to open the show.
Thursday, March 16, 8:30 p.m. $22-$25