Black Mountain frontman Stephen McBean is decidedly un-epic: He obscures his jawline with a beard, his shoulders with slumping sweaters. He would probably share his drugs with you. To see him—or better, to have heard the trance-rock grooves and unhurried choruses of BM’s eponymous debut— you’d be right to question whether an album of monstrous, ambitious space metal best fits the Vancouver quintet’s strengths—especially considering the possibility, given the band’s affinity for stoned jams, that “In the Future” refers to, like, next Wednesday.
No worries: From its opening moments, Future assumes that title’s pomp, bursting with chrome riffing and dipping heartily into lite-cosmos keyboards. It is triumphant and bellowing. And silly. Co-vocalist Amber Webber must’ve traded her floral print and tambourine for a shamanic staff and Batman mask, so stormy and dramatic is her caterwauling. McBean remains a propulsive guitarist and winkingly portentous frontman, sprinkling in tribute and camp: For the second time in two albums (he cagily chirped “no satisfaction” on the debut), McBean nips Mick during an obvious Stones homage, this time noting “Sticky fingers/You want more” during “Wild Wind.”
The band seems to have abandoned writing songs in favor of constructing moments, as if the whole of the 16 minutes that comprise “Bright Light” exists just to supply its wailing coda, or “Tyrants” drags on for eight just to frame some wily guitar licks in extended dirges. Too quick and severe on the brakes, Black Mountain stunt their own grandiosity in the name of dynamics or patience. Amid the opium spires of “Wucan” and “Angels,” McBean and Webber still flaunt their enrapturing ability to totally fuck up the distinctions between faith and sex—”Oh no you don’t/Ever wanna get someplace where you cannot believe . . . Yeah we can come together”—but Future too often proves compartmentalized and unwieldy.