It’s been said many, many times already, but the way in which the UK rock scene has hiked up its bootstraps to allow creative, interesting music to thrive once again is nothing short of inspiring. To see an environment where bands like Creeper and Milk Teeth not only survive but are leading the charge for rock in the mainstream is wonderful to see, but even among them, few bands have displayed how far creative, challenging music can go more than Black Peaks. And to clarify, they’re most certainly not on the same level of prominence of most of their peers, but with a debut album like Statues that blended post-hardcore and progressive rock with such ease and tact, they’ve arguably been the ones to blow down the doors to give more bands like them the opportunity to flourish. As well as Will Gardner establishing himself as one of the most distinct and promising new voices in the scene at the minute, the next steps for Black Peaks are the ones pegged to truly see them come into their own and break the mainstream rock paradigm for good.
Except that’s probably not the case with All That Divides, simply because Black Peaks aren’t a mainstream band, nor are they trying to be. They could’ve easily replicated the Statues formula but toned it down for wider consumption, but there’s clearly more integrity here than that. Instead, All That Divides feels like the next logical step for Black Peaks to turn them into cult heroes rather than radio-friendly unit-shifters, simultaneously expanding their sound but honing it to enhance everything that worked so well last time and make it better. Once again, they’re showing off the creativity that just kept them in the underground last time, and they’re all the better for it.
And it’s not as if they’re not capable of making that jump either; both Can’t Sleep and Electric Fires have the exact sort of choruses that could send huge crowds and festival main stages into a frenzy at any given time. Rather, it’s what Black Peaks do with them that sets them apart, integrating them into much wider, expansive landscapes that allows their innovation to go unstifled. A track like Aether shows this off best, spanning the full gamut from delicate yet tense moments of quiet to thunderous slabs of guitar that could ram through any lesser act, and with the soaring power of Across The Great Divide and Home, and the flowing, liquid beauty of Slow Seas, Black Peaks are able to capture such an evocative range of sounds and keep the entire scope, all while avoiding the stale tropes of progressive rock.
It’s mostly thanks to how the post-hardcore ethos is kept so rock-solid throughout. It feels a lot more direct in the production, hitting harder and faster with the guitars and especially the drums while keeping that size, something that’s also reciprocated in Gardner’s vocals. Screams feel entirely natural rather than fashionable, and the contrasts made between his swooping cleans is borderline flawless, especially with the ease and efficiency tracks can open up on themselves, only to crash back in just seconds later. It’s also greatly befitting of the content, exploring the idea of restricted freedom set to the backdrop of a post-Brexit Britain that gives clarity in which the magnitude of the music can breathe and collapse accordingly.
If there’s any sort of nitpick, All That Divides is perhaps missing that single breathtaking moment like Glass Built Castles was previously, but that’s honestly it. Otherwise, Black Peaks have pretty much improved on every possible facet here, building a truly fantastic album upon foundations that were already pretty great to begin with. It’s played with the sort of incredible, enrapturing detail that’s so easy to get onboard with, and with a sense of consistency and enormity that feels so well-earned, Black Peaks continue their reign as one of British rock’s true greats.
For fans of: Muse, Marmozets, Arcane Roots
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘All That Divides’ by Black Peaks is released on 5th October on Rise Records / BMG Rights Management.