Black Peaks – ‘All That Divides’ (Album Review)
Some bands are born special. I first came across Black Peaks (then known collectively as Shrine) back in 2014, within a year or so of their initial formation, and it was obvious even then that these guys would go on to achieve big things. Fast-forward past their Closer To The Sun EP, 2016’s beautifully batshit debut album Statues, massive amounts of touring, and more than a few spectacular support slots (see Deftones, Mastodon, System Of A Down, Prophets Of Rage, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Architects, Marmozets, and more), and we come now to Black Peaks’ all-important second full-length set, All That Divides.
Nothing short of total global catastrophe could have stopped Black Peaks from achieving what they have already, and the current state of the world around us has now become this band’s core motivating force. Political points are made with exceptionally poetic precision during advance single Home and penultimate track Slow Seas, the former addressing Brexit from the perspective of a band on the road abroad and the latter conjuring Calais refugee camp visuals, while themes of oppression, anxiety, and existential crisis repeatedly emerge across the rest of All That Divides. As with Statues before it, this album has plenty going on under the surface.
All That Divides is best taken in through as many deep dives as possible, but anyone who just wants to rock out to some ridiculous riffs and start a circle pit will come away with a long list of reasons to do so. We’re talking about Black Peaks after all, a seriously heavy band with an immediately recognisable sound stretched to new limits, but never taken beyond the point of no return. Fans of everyone from Tom Morello to Toska, Royal Blood, Queens Of The Stone Age, Soundgarden, and Karnivool will spot nods in each of the above directions – and we’re even treated to some System Of A Down vibes during Slow Seas – but as is consistently the case with truly great bands, Black Peaks assimilate external styles and mutate them, rather than cynically ripping off tried and tested creative options.
Having heard Can’t Sleep, Home, and Electric Fires, some Black Peaks fans might be wondering if these guys have decided to take a relatively moderate, accessible tack for their sophomore album. However, just a quick look at the running times involved across all nine tracks will provide a clearer view. The above singles are the shortest on All That Divides by at least 30 seconds, and fully one third of the total track listing is made up of songs pushing past six and a half minutes.
That’s almost 20 minutes of music, split between three epics.
The Midnight Sun, Aether, and Fate I & II are all sprawling highlights, but the one in the middle is by far one of Black Peaks’ best songs ever. Aether’s key hook section is so carefully composed that it’ll take at least a few listens to work out exactly what the hell’s going on within it. Black Peaks take pains to guide their listeners through that one, gliding easily from line to line and making it as easy to sing along to as possible.
Oh, and no review of All That Divides could possibly pass without mentioning a certain set of triplet-based guitar breaks lurking inside The Midnight Sun. You’ll know it when you hear it, and you will rewind it so many times that the digital file itself will be in danger of getting worn out. If you’re getting All That Divides on vinyl, buy two. The first will get fucking ruined.
Back when Statues came out, I struggled to imagine how Black Peaks could possibly top it. Of course, they’d already started working out the answer to that particular problem, and now it’s almost here. All That Divides is a safe contender for more or less every rock-related “album of the year” list out there, and you can bet it’s going to top at least a few of them.
If you’re excited, you are correct.
LTK RATING: 10/10 (Essential Listening!)
Pre-order All That Divides (out October 5) on iTunes.
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