It’s a fair assessment that most bands would maim their bass player in a heartbeat if it would guarantee them the kind of album cycle that Black Peaks had for their debut, Statues. Following its release, the buzz that had been steadily building around the band snowballed into a roar, with progressively more prestigious tours and shows, culminating in a triumphant, sold out album play-through in a hometown venue they likely dreamed of filling at the point they changed their name from Shrine. Oh, and getting to play arenas as support of Deftones was a nice bonus, too. Clearly looking to keep the momentum rolling, Black Peaks took just a few months out between the 2017 and 2018 festival seasons to write and record before hitting the road again. However, we should probably be clear that most certainly does not mean that All That Divides feels like a rush job. Far from it.
For listeners whose first exposure to Black Peaks was listening to Statues, their live shows might have been a bit of a surprise, with the band sounding heavier than on record, and generating a remarkably vigorous response from their steadily growing fanbase. I fell into this group myself, and I was certainly not expecting circle pits during their set, but there they were. All That Divides appears to close this gap between their live and recorded sound, sounding more raucous and exuberant than ever. Although, if these songs get the same turbo boost played live as their older brothers and sisters from Statues, the shows are going to be some kind of glorious carnage.
Deftones may have given Black Peaks their first taste of arena stages, and now the band are showing they are capable of writing songs to fill them. Obviously, shows of that size will still be the exception rather than the rule for the time being, and whilst this new material has that kind of scope, it is going to be fantastically powerful when concentrated down to the mid-tier venues that are, for now at least, their natural home. All That Divides is stuffed with towering, anthemic songs, ranging across the full spectrum of emotions from fragile vulnerability through to almost inchoate rage, with plenty of stops to admire the view along the way. Vocalist Will Gardner, in particular, has really pulled out the stops, growing in confidence and soaking his performance in passion and emotion.
There is quite a collection of influences and sonic touchstones evident in how Black Peaks sound has evolved on All That Divides. Album opener “Can’t Sleep” carries strains of System of a Down, especially in the pre-choruses, and thrilling album highlight “Eternal Light” has a very strong Mastodon feel, especially in the outstanding, choppy riff that kicks in towards the end of the song. The moshpits are going to be wild for that one, for sure. “Slow Seas”, too, features a spot of meaty plam-muting. But for all this talk of heaviness, All That Divides is still firmly a British rock album, taking the energy of Reuben and the stately panoramics of Oceansize, wrapped up into dynamic and exciting song-shaped packages that are instantly accessible. A number of the songs have a slight swing to their tempo, which brings to this mind a faint recollection of The Wonder Stuff. But that might be a minority opinion.
All That Divides is obviously driven by strong emotions and strongly held opinions, but they are not overtly expressed, neatly side-stepping any possibility of coming across as preachy. This combination of exploring complex emotions in a cryptic form, especially when delivered through Will’s fragile falsettos and remarkably full-throated howls, probably makes Black Peaks the closest thing the UK has to Agent Fresco.
It might sound a little preposterous these days, but there really was a point in history where U2 were the most exciting band in rock music. No laughing at the back. It would be premature to say that All That Divides could be this generations answer to Unforgettable Fire or The Joshua Tree, but it strongly hints that Black Peaks have an album of that calibre in them. Especially considering their gift for balancing moshpit inducing riffs and huge vocal refrains that practically beg to be sung by thousands of voices in a festival field.
Ok, that’s some pretty big talk right there, but All That Divides is a big album. It feels like a particularly well-framed snapshot of a band having the absolute time of their lives. It is as though they have taken the inspiring energy of the response to Statues, then ran straight into a studio and channelled it through their instruments back out at the world in a joyful spasm of creativity. Black Peaks could easily have rested on their laurels and played it safe, but by pushing boldly onwards they have produced a genuinely remarkable album, and one that is sure to represent, fittingly, one of the loftiest pinnacles of the year.
All That Divides is out October 5th through Rise Records.