Gigs don't get much better than this. 2005 favourites Black Mountain have put the side-projects to one side and got back in the ring with a new album In The Future - due January 2008. Having been enlisted to play this weekend's ATP Festival, the band lined up a few warm-up dates around the UK - with the London gig happily a mere two minutes from our office. Just when this gig couldn't get any better, one of this year's favourites - Miracle Fortress - get lined up to support and for the first time in a long time, not missing the support act became a priority. You can read a quick review of their performance here.
Singer Amber Webber introduced the band through the haunting Night Walks, before Stormy High got things really moving. This classic heavy number may be new, but there was no reluctance to get into it from the crowd. Songs like Lighting Up The Sky and Evil Ways find the guitar and bass onslaught building a wave of noise that is impossible not to get swept up in. Old favourite Satisfaction was requested from the crowd but given short shrift as the set-list was strictly warm-up, consisting of all but two of the new album tracks, plus Thirteen Walls from a tour 12" on sale at the show and only a couple of older numbers.
Where the debut album showed great potential, the new material really finds the band hitting their stride and the power behind these songs is immense. Blood Meridian front man Matt Camirand is a supporting player here, providing a solid bassline from the back, along with the powerhouse John Bonham-esque drumming and moody moog electronics. While Stephen McBean is clearly the leader of the band, they all have a strong input into the stage presence - all mic'ed up for backing vocals and all happy to chip in with the stage banter. McBean has a great voice however and the change in pace for the accoustic Stay Free provided a chance for him to reclaim centre stage.
Not unlike getting mugged in slow motion, the non-stop onslaught is a strangely rewarding experience. Without being cheesy or predictable, the songs hit the highs and lows in all the right places - just where you expect them. As songs like Tyrants wind down, you find yourself hoping for one last barrage of guitar thunder, but you still aren't prepared for the ferocity with which it is delivered.
The earlier call for Satisfaction was addressed as the band came back on for a riotous rendition of that debut album favourite plus another oldie No Hits. Hopefully they're now feeling suitably warmed, as I'm certainly ready for more.
Following the release of their superb debut album, Miracle Fortress were over in Europe for a brief mini-tour, with this support slot for Black Mountain being one of two London shows. It's not often a support band becomes unmissable and Miracle Fortress did not disappoint.
A brief delay in sound checking was worth the wait, as the bombastic sound of Five Roses was energetically recaptured in their live show. Although the album is essentially the work of one man, the live band is a fully fledged unit with plenty of power. Whirrs, Maybe Lately, Little Trees, Fortune - all sounding like organic, melodic, hypnotic cacophonies. The only problem with much of this whirling wall of sound approach is that it's often not that entertaining to watch on stage, as without a strong stage formation and with the disadvantage lot of instrument changing there tends to be a lack of focus.
Once underway however, they seemed unstoppable - taking in a John Cale cover and a new track in addition to a good chunk of material from Five Roses. A great album, from another great Canadian band.