It is refreshing to know that it is still possible for bands to make a genuine impression and progress on merit. Black Peaks have not arisen on wings of hot air belched from a hype machine based on market research, haircuts, stylists, or a neat-line in zeitgeist paraphernalia and right-here-right-now shallow bandwagonistic anthems, but as a collective who are on the cusp of succeeding, of truly making an impression on the alternative music landscape, due to the fact of being talented musicians with obvious chemistry, and the ability to craft great works of art distinctive to them alone.
For with All That Divides (Rise/BMG), the English quartet has produced the album of dark, alternative, progressive heavy music interspersed with moments of beauty, that is always, always, held together with genuine emotion, drive and feeling; an album that, if there is any justice will push them through the glass ceiling.
You can feel throughout that this is a release that was born from an earned confidence – the success of impressive debut Statues (Easy Life) would appear vital in unleashing the unbridled quality on display, as All That Divides wears a conviction surely gained from the achievements of its predecessor and a previous touring cycle that saw Black Peaks share the stage with some of the greatest artists our world has to offer. As good as that opening gambit was, All That Divides is still a significant step up, because when you’re confronted with songs like the monolithic, snaking ‘Æther’ and it’s gorgeous journey from a latter-day Anathema styled first section, to a hulking, prowling beast as it unravels, or ‘Across The Great Divide’, or album highlight ‘Slow Seas’ that incorporates a melancholic, reflective, beautiful vocal delivery at the outset before unveiling a great grasp of dynamics as it builds to a jagged, juddering monolith that reaches its dénouement with a bluesy peal under an impassioned howl – a track that could have graced Crack The Skye – you know this comes from a place where self-belief, class, talent, and motivation have come together in glorious synchronicity.
The gold standard is set from outset with the angular swagger of opener ‘Can’t Sleep’ where vocalist Will Gardner takes control of the jagged, progressive music that swirls underneath his voice as he effortlessly switches from melodic tones to a roar, leading us through an epic build and drift, into a masterful understated pre-chorus that suggests much was learned from supporting System Of A Down. A gorgeous full chorus follows, as does a raging mid-section.
Guitarist Joe Gosney shines at every turn, too, as his cascading dextrous licks entwine and play against Gardner’s vocals throughout, but no better than during the second half of the tumbling Mastodonian ‘Eternal Light’, or main body of second track ‘The Midnight Sun’, where light flecks of glassy guitars dance before he bringing things in tight, releasing a crescendo of crashing chords, powerful, deliberate. Proceedings are opened back up and build to a discordant fury to end. Credit must be bestowed upon new bassist Dave Larkin too for not just slotting in seamlessly, but forming a rigorous rhythm section with Liam Kearley and for enhancing every track with smooth runs, fills and clever grooves, in particular on the black, pining, lurching Tool-isms of ‘Home’ and album coda ‘Fate II’.
Black Peaks’ second album displays a maturity, strength, and depth of ideas that their evolution should not yet grant them, and their conviction in delivery leaves you concurrently exhausted and exhilarated at the conclusion of the album as ‘Fate II’ crashes to close a spectacular statement of genuine musical intent. Black Peaks is not your average run-of-the-mill band. They are ambitious, technically talented and able to blend a myriad of ideas into prodigious alternative progressive rock music that, above all, is dripping with power, intent and worth. Black Peaks are special, and All That Divides, with its heart lying broken somewhere in the torn apart by the increasing alienation and polarisation of their country and our society, is not just born of dark and challenging times, but is a dark, challenging and momentous artistic response.