Ah the old ‘difficult second album’ cliché. It often tends to be that the brightest sparks in a given scene will stumble upon their sophomore release and be chucked on the scrap heap of “where are they now?” fame. Not in heavy music. One of the tenets of the heavy lifestyle is dedication, and no band that releases a stunning album will be left behind at a moment’s notice as in so many other genres. The brightest star in our world currently is Brighton progressive post-hardcore outfit, Black Peaks. Releasing their utterly stunning debut Statues in 2016, they have takenby storm and have become the most exciting British band since Napalm Death. Understandably then, there’s a monolithic weight of expectation on the quartet’s shoulders to follow it up in suitable fashion. And here we have it; All That Divides.
The album opens with Can’t Sleep, a thrillingly explosive opening with a chorus guaranteed to get massive crowds on side. It features a main riff that flits between Mastodon-esque finesse and neck snapping heaviness. It’s apparent from the off that Peaks are far more confident in their own abilities than ever, and this carries on throughout the album. It’s a far more cohesive affair than the debut. Ideas are expanded to the fullest potential in relatively short amounts of time. While the debut’s frenetic pace was a charming and defining feature, the increased level-headedness and restraint on display here is a natural evolution for the quartet. Many bands labelled progressive feel the need to drag every song out to the over ten minute mark. But Black Peaks cram in a plethora of cohesive and addictively luscious ideas into four minutes. Others would balk at the idea of this, but brevity is a huge boon to the album.
Following on comes The Midnight Sun, the best Tool song not written by Tool. It’s an absolute stunner, growing to an increasingly satisfying crescendo three times over, and perfectly showcases the wondrous abilities of this band. Liam Kearly’s percussive work on this album is Brann Dailor levels of excellence. The tom-tom fills on the aforementioned track flesh out the exhilarating feeling the listener gets. You’d be lying if you said you didn’t air-drum along to it. New bassist Dave Larkin, formerly of the St. Pierre Snake Invasion, fits seamlessly into the band, bringing both crushingly heavy and intricately thoughtful rhythms to Joe Gosney’s unbelievable lead guitar work.
Of course, the final piece of the puzzle is Will Gardener, without question the greatest vocalist performing in a newer band. Flowing with mind-boggling ease between croons, full bodied alto passages and shrieks only the best of harsh vocalists would muster. He is on the top of his game. He’s able to maintain melody in even the most physically challenging of vocal lines, particularly in the chorus of Home, where his lyricisms are not lost in his screams.
The band’s musical zenith comes on penultimate track, Slow Seas. Musically ambitious beyond belief, and lyrically following a bleakly socio-political idea, with hints of glimmering optimism. It’s a feeling that many British people are in short supply of nowadays. ‘How could they drown in our waters?// Stop drawing borders// Start building bridges of hope’ summarises this song as the ultimate anti-Brexit anthem. An enrapturing piece of melancholic genius.
With their second album, Black Peaks have not only disproven ‘Difficult Second Album Syndrome’, they’ve bettered themselves. It’s a seamless piece to be enjoyed as a whole, ebbing and flowing through quiet contemplation and blistering intensity. Emotionally and sonically heavier than its predecessor, and without ego in its creation; the whole band play off one another as a cemented unit, with no wishes to outplay each other. If Statues was Black Peaks’ introduction to the world, then this is them taking one step closer to becoming the band they know they can be. It’s an utterly flawless modern masterpiece. And there’s still so much more to come.
Words by Sam Sleight