Sub Editor at ALT-MU Magazine, Bex Cole, stumbled into a gig at Concorde 2 in Brighton (UK) last week and got a surprise. She was watching the same band she had seen in a tiny run-down pub years ago, now playing a sell-out gig. Here is her Black Peaks muso love story…
One summer about two years ago, I paid three quid and got the back of my hand stamped permitting entry to what could generously be described as a large cupboard masquerading as a function room above a tiny, run-down pub in Brighton’s North Laines. I went to see a band I did not know and had never heard of, but had it on good information that it was ‘gonna be good.’
Still not entirely sure how the logistics of the gig would pan out, I took a quick scan of sparsely peopled room, got my pint and found my spot in front of the ‘stage’, slightly to the left. The only things separating the band from the somewhat depleted crowd were a couple of mic stands and a monitor. The place was so small that jumping around was completely out of the question, unless you wanted to leave with a mild concussion. What’s more, sitting on a shelf behind the kit was an oddly placed and very large, round fish bowl. What the poor fish inside that tank did not know, was that they were about to get their tiny little goldfish brains boggled by some incredibly loud and incredibly fast Brightonians who collectively went by the name of ‘Shrine’.
Two years later, Shrine had evolved in to ‘Black Peaks’ with an EP released in 2014, a studio album released earlier this year, a Sony record deal and some rather questionable facial hair – but more importantly, they were home and selling out Concord 2. It’s safe to say that Black Peaks’ much awaited homecoming went down magnificently.
…and the chaos ensued
Surely there is no better expression of appreciation at a gig than a gloriously expensive pint thrown high in the air for all to enjoy. Thirty seconds into the opening song, ‘Glass Built Castles’, and everyone was losing their shit because this isn’t the kind of music you can just stand around and listen to. After splitting the entire room in two, from the stage to the exit creating some kind of ‘wall of death’, frontman Will Gardener had the crowd in the palm of his hand; a feat that seemed effortless. Gardener’s strong and diverse vocal performance was almost too good to be true and the extent of his vocal power was exemplified in the performance of ‘Say You Will’ – a five minute long progressive slow burner, which has an almost apocalyptic feel to it. Initially released as a single, it was remastered and now features on the album and is arguably one of the strongest tracks.
Commanding the stage like a boss
Onstage the band are a well-oiled machine, perfectly in time to the complex, ‘mathy’ structures of the songs and clearly elated to be home. After an incredibly successful two years and a very quick ascent to greatness, there’s something humbling about playing in your hometown.
The latter half of the set saw the band joined on stage by Jamie Lenman of post/alt-rock threesome, Reuben; and the performance intensified. Since the disbandment of Reuben in 2008, Lenman worked as an illustrator before releasing a solo album ‘Muscle Memory’ in 2013, an experimental twenty-two tack, double disc collection with disc one offering eleven tracks of furious hard-core, and disc two an amalgamation of folk, jazz, country, and acoustic pop. If anyone can cram every genre in to one album, it’s him. Its no surprise then, to see him alongside Black Peaks.
With their experimental style, the two artists draw influence from the same pot. Nevertheless, Lenman and Gardeners’ vocals combined were nothing short of flawless and what’s even more impressive is that they simply don’t falter on stage. This and the sheer precision and agility of the band’s musicianship is astounding.
Live photography from the night
An epic night captured perfectly in this gallery by JC Riot Photography…
Black Peaks debut album, Statues
Black Peaks are riding a wave of success off the back of their debut album ‘Statues’ – an eleven track collection meticulously constructed in just two weeks at Middle Farm Studios in Devon. Produced by Mark Roberts, it could be said that this album has made a space for the alternative genres on the proverbial popular map. Already gaining recognition from Radio 1’s Zane Lowe, Statues has been described as Math Rock, Progressive/Alt-Rock, Metal, Post-Rock – call it what you want, but truth be told, its boundaries are blurred and why confine it to the boundaries of one singular genre anyhow? The best music transcends the conventions of genres created to stratify them – and this album is un-stratifiable. That is not to say that it hasn’t fallen victim to the criticisms of the alternative scene however, who question whether or not it panders to the mainstream rather than sticking to its alternative roots. In this respect it is definitely a bit of both, there are tracks on the album which might seem a bit more ‘radio friendly’ than others but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of variety, right?
For a first album it is sophisticated. It harks back to the complexity of bands such as The Mars Volta but its thunderously heavy with intermittent lulls of melodic respite showcasing Gardeners’ vast range. It would be an injustice to compare the band to their alternative predecessors because what they offer is a modern originality which hasn’t really come before. There are definitely some identifiable influencers such as Oceansize for example, but it does have a more accessible feel to it.
In the same vain, the album is packed with complicated time signatures giving it a certain feeling of intelligence as well as your daily dose of thrash. With an average song length of around 5 minutes, we’re certainly not left feeling short changed. Lenman features on the eleventh track of the album with ‘To take the first turn’ leaving it dramatically concluded.
What’s next for Black Peaks?
Despite the widespread success the band have been enjoying country wide, they are clearly not afraid to play the smaller venues. Black Peaks are headlining a 60 capacity gig in Bar 42, Worthing towards the end of January in support of Independent Venue Week with support from Core of iO and Seething Akira. They then continue to play more (slightly larger) venues across the country and in Ireland in 2017.
To find out more about Black Peaks visit their website where you can buy Statues on CD, Vinyl or download for £9.99.
Review by Bex Cole
Featured photo by Emma Swann