The new Black Mountain album is only partly that. Although marketed as an “original soundtrack” for Year Zero—a post-apocalyptic-themed surf video, not to be confused with the Trent Reznor-orchestrated album/alternate reality game/forever-in-the-works science-fiction epic of the same name—the nine-track record features only five new songs. The rest are old works from past albums. It’s a bit of a cheat. But the selection is such that there’s really nothing to dislike here. Year Zero is a fine sampling of some of Black Mountain’s best work and an even more compelling preview of what’s (hopefully) to come.
Year Zero’s future world is sun-drenched and discordant, a ’70s-inspired utopia of cresting waves and expansive landscapes shot on 16mm film. The vintage wash is an easy complement to Black Mountain’s own classic rock sound. Opening track “Phosphorescent Waves”—one of the album’s originals—slow-builds to a fantastic psychotropic crawl, buzzing through Hawkwind-like synths and vocalist Amber Webber’s deadpanned mediations. Journeying forth, the album moves swiftly from hazed-out dirges (“Embrace Euphoria” and “In Sequence”) to rollicking rock ’n’ roll (“Mary Lou” and “Tyrants”) and back again.
Heavy on drama and moody atmospherics, but without ever feeling too dense or histrionic, Year Zero is a successful revisit and reminder of what Black Mountain does best: riff-based psychedelia with a decisively modern bent. It’s been a relatively short two years and counting since Black Mountain put out a proper full-length. If Year Zero is any indication of the future, the next record will be a truly sublime vision.