Boy, I still remember when Black Mountain could do no wrong. It was the throes of last decade’s reaction to the war in Iraq, when as they astutely pointed out “The war machine / It keeps on turning”, and in contrast to the sort of androgynous, flaccid indie groups that crowded the metaphysical picket lines, they pummeled in with a little refreshing muscle and grunge that was albeit politically cognizant.
Well, 13 years have elapsed and they basically haven’t altered their style or texture whatsoever, in fact probably devolving when it comes to techniques of putting a song together, materializing here in everything insipid from ’80s hair metal and classic rock. And no, unlike David Lee Roth, Steven McBean doesn’t even have the balls to come out and be a caricatured womanizing goon, which of course makes matters even worse.
On the band’s second album, the trippy and expansive In the Future, they got away with the uniformity of style they still tote today, because the songs took on various, fresh-sounding creativities in time signature and in structure itself, with at least one tune stretching close to 10 minutes, and exuding intensity the whole way. What’s more, that album mixed its hard grunge edge with some heady balladry, which showcased some of McBean’s thoughtful songwriting, as in the cases of “Wucan” and “Stay Free.”
By contrast, none of the vocals on Destroyer (which oddly is named after another band from Black Mountain’s own hometown, Vancouver) make any impression at all — like the guitar sound and general m.o. it’s basically the exact same as what we’ve come to expect from the band, with no surprises. And no, that droid shtick on track two “Horns Arising” is not enough to push things into the futuristic, seeing as that’s easily something TOOL could have pulled off on or around Lateralus. We get the obligatory Amber Webber guest vocal on “Boogie Lover,” which trots along again with pretty much no freshness or variation on what we know, and by this point she just seems McBean’s hopeless lap dog, never given the forefront or the privilege of a high-profile statement, but relegated to places like track six as an ostensible circus side show, again making little or no impression with what’s she’s saying or how she’s saying it.
Like other post-grunge acts Queens of the Stone Age and Band of Skulls, Black Mountain seems to have made all of two great albums, to then see their inspiration well run heinously dry and to unfortunately press on nonetheless, attempting to make a profession out of something when the inspiration just isn’t there. Nothing about Destroyer is trippy, like “Wucan” was, or light and charming, like “No Satisfaction.” The only sap I could see being into this album would be some easily led indie fan of last year now thrust willingly into the world of comic book movies and Dungeons and Dragons, witless enough to then think that that gives him any cultural validation.