The applause started as soon as the overhead music trailed off, each note quietly slipping into the shadows almost as fast as they had appeared. Taking the stage soon after, the members of the five-piece Black Mountain would waste no time in casting a mood as strong as the row of spotlights that hung from the ceiling. Immersed in a heavy haze of smoke, Stephen McBean, Amber Webber, Joshua Wells, Colin Cowan and Jeremy Schmidt crafted a vibrant, flowing collage of sound that was frequently broken in two by flashes of searing rock. With deep shades of color swirling around them, they began their set at Philadelphia’s Union Transfer (06-29-16) with a performance of “Mothers of the Sun.” Clocking in at well over eight minutes, the sprawling title track off their most recent record, 2016’s IV, felt like the perfect greeting from a band that would spend the next two hours bringing together a multitude of styles and textures- often within the very same song.
Right from the start, “Mothers of the Sun” cast a spell over the room. Recreating every speck of the arrangement’s most ominous and ghostly details, the band imbued its opening verse with palpable tension. Building in a way that made it feel far less like a song and more like the sonic equivalent of the calm before the storm, it zeroed in on an atmosphere that was cinematic and decidedly patient. Unfolding subtlety and steadily, it set the tone for a live show that was marked by powerful fusions of the heavy and serene. Eager to watch them balance those two worlds, those who had crossed through the venues threshold earlier had instantly traded the bright sunny skies of a summer evening for a whole other dimension. Trading the rough, jagged cement of the city streets for a walk on the moon, the audience watched enamored as the band floated through renditions of “Cemetery Breeding,” “Tyrants” and “Rollercoaster.” Although hearing a song like “Line Them All Up,” alongside some of their more aggressive work had only reinforced the full range of the band’s sound. Fluctuating between calmer waters and crashing waves, they deftly captured the energy of their catalogue with a set list that seemed to soothe the audience just as often as it had caused them to throw their hands in the air and snap their heads up and down to the beat. And by maintaining that balance even while embracing their sound’s wilder elements, Black Mountain delivered a rousing, raging rock show bolstered by a touch of the surreal.
Article: Caitlin Phillips